Legal Reform Bills Would Curtail Damage Awards

By Pendleton, Randolph | The Florida Times Union, March 11, 1998 | Go to article overview

Legal Reform Bills Would Curtail Damage Awards


Pendleton, Randolph, The Florida Times Union


TALLAHASSEE -- Damage awards would be severely curtailed by

changes in the legal system that received an overwhelming

endorsement from the House yesterday.

The package of bills would limit punitive damage awards,

protect rental-car companies from big verdicts and restrict

liability to the percentage of fault when large judgments are

involved.

The action was a boost for business in its long-running battle

with trial lawyers, but the six bills approved by the House must

now go to the Senate.

Scott Carruthers, executive director of the Academy of Florida

Trial Lawyers, said opponents of the changes hope to fare better

there, although he also was unhappy with proposed Senate

legislation.

The bills passed one by one in a four-hour floor session, by

margins ranging from 73-42 to 115-1.

The proposed legislation would:

Limit punitive damages to $250,000 when compensatory damages

are $50,000 or less (House Bill 3873).

Eliminate the doctrine of joint and several liability of

economic damages over $250,000, meaning that a person only

partially at fault could not be held liable for the entire

verdict (House Bill 3879).

Limit liability for rental-car companies to $100,000 per

person and $300,000 per accident unless they were negligent

(House Bill 3877).

Provide that manufacturers are not liable for products that

are more than 12 years old (House Bill 3871).

Limit liability for accidents on commercial property if safety

precautions are taken (House Bill 3875). …

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