FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Allison North Jones
TALLAHASSEE – One of the largest insurance industry giveaways – infringing on the rights of every Floridian – is now law. HB 837 was rushed through the legislative process and approved by lawmakers 17 days into the 2023 legislative session and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis within one hour of receiving the bill Friday.
The bill, championed by the insurance industry, imposes some of the most significant limits on the ability of insurance policyholders to hold insurance companies accountable across all lines of insurance – auto, health, life, and liability.
“The new law does nothing to protect Floridians and everything to protect the profits of billionaire insurance corporations,” said Curry Pajcic, president of the Florida Justice Association (FJA) and partner, Pajcic & Pajcic in Jacksonville.
“The process by which these sweeping reforms were considered was concerning to the FJA and our members, as well as numerous other parties who publicly opposed the bill at every committee stop in the process,” Pajcic said.
Many Floridians opposed this legislation and came to Tallahassee from all over the state to testify against the bill becoming law. This included doctors, victims of medical negligence, crime and human trafficking victims and their families, survivors of trucking accidents, and small business owners.
FJA’s concerns with this legislation were vast, however, in the end there were several provisions of the bill we expressed specific concerns about and supported amendments that would improve those provisions within the bill. Including:
- Strengthening the bad faith section of the bill to ensure policyholders would be able to hold insurance companies accountable when they do not treat them in good faith;
- Removing the criminal from the verdict form in a civil proceeding in negligent security cases; and
- Changing the effective date.
Each of these changes was rejected. This meant that when the Governor signed the law today, the provisions in it became effective.
Supporters of the bill throughout the process were few, but included insurance corporations, Big Business, and insurance defense lawyers in Florida. Now, some of those very same groups are expressing concerns about the impact the bill becoming law will have on the state’s courts.
In what is an unprecedented request, the association of insurance defense lawyers has asked the Supreme Court to issue a blanket statewide administrative order permitting extensions of time to respond to complaints that have been recently filed.
“The recent surge in personal injury and wrongful death case filings is the unfortunate result of HB 837 being rushed through the Legislature without sufficient consideration of its practical effects,” Pajcic noted. “In the few weeks that the bill was considered, it was evident to all that this language would cause a rush to file. Victims needed to file before the law took effect to preserve their rights,” Pajcic said.
“The problem could have been easily avoided. HB 837 could have been amended to only apply to cases “accruing” after it took effect,” Pajcic said. “We were clear with legislative leadership and during testimony in all the committee meetings that unless the new law effective only for causes of action accruing on or after the effective date, which is the norm for new legislation affecting substantive rights such as those in HB 837, tens of thousands of lawsuits would have to be filed to protect the rights of Florida’s residents,” Pajcic said.
“While FJA and its members are disappointed with the process and the fact HB 837 is now law, the rush of filings caused by its draconian enacting provision ought to subside. There is no reason to believe that the Circuit Courts of Florida will not look at their individual dockets and manage these cases with excellence. It is in everyone’s best interest to work together towards that common goal,” Pajcic said.
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