George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da Pol⁠i⁠⁠t⁠⁠i⁠cs: The Fleec⁠i⁠ng of Flor⁠i⁠d⁠i⁠ans, Par⁠t⁠ II

By: Sal Nuzzo / 2023

Sal Nuzzo


George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity


Sal Nuzzo and Christian Cámara
March 6, 2023

When fraudulent and frivolous litigation piles up, every one of us pays the price.

Foundations of Fraud

Late on a June evening in 2017, Sarah Kelly was rushed to the emergency room after her car swerved and sent her into a tree.

There wasn’t anyone else in the car with her and nobody else was on the road. It was a tragic case of hydroplaning leading to overcorrection resulting in an awful injury. As her family prayed for a miracle, a trial attorney saw an opportunity. Seeing a Facebook post about the incident from Sarah’s sister, the attorney immediately reached out, seeking to get access to the car.

“If we can check out the tire treads, and a few other items, we may be able to help you. Your family could reap a pretty sizable settlement.”

Sarah survived but is now paralyzed. And as tragic as her case is, there was no negligence. There was nobody else at legal fault. There was no reason anyone should have suggested that she pursue civil litigation. Just a slick attorney recognizing Florida’s rules on negligence and attorney’s fees meant they could prey upon a family in emotional crisis.

This is just one example of the egregious tactics being deployed as a result of Florida’s civil litigation rules. It represents one of the myriad methods that billboard trial attorneys in Florida have turned our court system into a cash cow for their own benefit. They’re fleecing us all and few realize it.

When fraudulent and frivolous litigation piles up, every one of us pays the price.

There’s a reason Florida’s auto insurance rates are among the highest in the U.S. There is also a reason, according to testimony offered in committee, that 99% of all of State Farm’s litigation related to auto glass price disparities in the U.S. occurs in Florida. It isn’t because State Farm is graciously offering up deals to its policyholders in 49 other states or because Florida has an inordinate amount of car crashes and cracked windshields. It’s because Florida’s unique rules governing lawsuits like these have turned the Sunshine State into the Settlement State, garnering six-figure payouts for trial attorneys in a cottage industry of barely legal fraud.

These litigation rules make it next to impossible to challenge the thousands upon thousands of nuisance suits — so companies accept it as the price for operating in Florida and elect to settle rather than incurring the cost of hiring countless lawyers and risking massive judgments. And then they do what they must to cover the financial losses: hike Florida policyholder rates.

Then those actually causing the problem cynically turn around and blame “those big bad insurance companies. The formula has been working for decades. And consequently, billboard trial attorneys go on dialing the cellphones of family members waiting in an ER to hear if their loved one survived.

This is why House Bill 837 and SB 236 are so overdue. The proposal is transformational for Florida. Led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner, HB 837 and SB 236 finally put Florida on the right trajectory for civil litigation. The sponsors of the legislation, Reps. Tommy Gregory and Tom Fabricio and Sen. Travis Hutson, are David taking on an army of Billboard Goliaths. Presenting the bill before its first committee hearing, Reps. Gregory and Fabricio endured more than four hours of comments from all levels of astroturf groups shuttled up by the worst of our trial bar offenders — many of whom were there for the day trip to Tallahassee and a couple of free meals with little understanding of how they had been misled.

Sitting in its first committee hearing, it was abundantly clear what was transpiring. Several tragic cases of negligence and wrongdoing were presented to the committee, each person seeking to make a connection between what happened to them (or their loved one) and the language of the bill. The emotional appeals were strong and very compelling. If only they had any connection to what HB 837 and SB 236 actually does, it would give even us pause. But that isn’t the case. It isn’t the case at all.

Make absolutely no mistake about it. The reforms proposed in HB 837 and SB 236 are designed to help each of those individuals who spoke before the House Civil Justice Committee opposing the bill. This legislation will help bring common sense and sanity to our civil litigation system by aligning Florida’s litigation laws with other states and allowing those harmed by the negligence of others the ability to access our court system to get the relief they deserve.

The only ones clamoring to keep the status quo are those handsomely profiting from it — and they are utterly untroubled by the rest of us paying the freight on their scheme. They’re not for Floridians, they’re just for their own deep pockets.

Sal Nuzzo is senior vice president of The James Madison Institute.

Christian Cámara is an adjunct fellow and scholar for The James Madison Institute.

Originally found in Florida Politics.