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
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
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). …