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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 31, 2020 7 months ago

Climate change: Florida climbs out of judicial hellhole

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Florida makes great strides in improving its legal climate.

Florida’s legal climate is climbing out of hell.

The No. 1 Judicial Hellhole in the country in 2017 in a well-followed report from the American Tort Reform Association, the state is now out of the top 10 entirely.

“Florida took great strides toward improving its legal climate in 2019,” the organization’s 2019/2020 report states. “Although there is much work to be done, the election of Gov. Ron DeSantis has heralded a sea change in Florida’s legal landscape, beginning with the appointment of several new Florida Supreme Court justices. This new court is deferential to legislative efforts to stop lawsuit abuse and poised to correct the course set by the prior activist court.”

In addition to new Supreme Court justices, the ATR report cites several key Florida Legislature-passed judicial reforms, including:

• Improving Florida’s expert witness standards, a move undertaken to bring the state closer in line with federal and a majority of state courts;  

• Removing incentives to file Assignment of Benefits litigation, which many in insurance and other fields say has led to legal fees and attorney payouts that dwarf actual damages paid to the policyholder; and

• Discouraging bad faith litigation against insurance companies.

Replacing Florida as the No. 1 judicial hellhole in the country is the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. California, New York City, St. Louis and the New Jersey State Legislature are among others in the top 10.

And although Florida is out of hell, the report, in placing the state on a watch list, says some reforms are still needed. The list, the report states, includes fraud in the state’s “no-fault” personal injury protection system, inflated awards for medical expenses and misleading and jury-tainting lawsuit advertising.

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