Evaluating the Seismic Impact of Florida’s New Tort Reform Laws

Posted on Health Care Law News by Rachel Broughton

On March 24, 2023, Florida Governor Ron Desantis signed into law HB 837/SB 236 which will significantly impact civil tort cases in Florida. The new law contains numerous changes to provide insurance companies greater protections as an effort to (according to the Governor) “decrease frivolous lawsuits and prevent predatory practices of trial attorneys”. The changes to the previous law are as follows:

  • The statute of limitations for general negligence claims is reduced from four years to two years, with an exception for plaintiffs serving active-duty military.
  • Limitations are placed on the evidence admissible to prove the amount of damages for past or future medical care, with a greater focus on amounts actually paid or obliged to be paid in the future. This significantly alters the traditional “letter of protection” arrangement between providers and their patients with corresponding tort claims.
  • A plaintiff found more than 50% at fault for the injuries claimed may not recover any damages whatsoever, with the exception of medical negligence claims.
  • A strong presumption is established that a lodestar fee based only on rates and hours (and not on any contingency multiplier) is a sufficient and reasonable measure of attorney fees.
  • An insured’s statutory entitlement to recover attorney fees upon prevailing against an insurer is eliminated, except in actions for declaratory judgments to determine coverage.
  • Juries deliberating in premises liability cases are permitted to consider the fault of all people who contributed to an injury, including a nonparty who injured the plaintiff by committing a crime on the defendant’s property.

Not only will these changes have considerable implications on Florida’s civil justice system, but it will also significantly impact the business structure and financial arrangements between various health care practices who treat patients with corresponding tort claims. Thus, it is imperative that all Florida health care professionals affected by this new law assess their current business model and practices by conducting a thorough review and analysis of how the new law will impact their practice. This process will likely include but is not limited to revisiting and revising the facility’s payment policies and perhaps patient intake documentation to assure such policies and documentation not only conform to the new law but protect the provider and guarantee payment for services it renders to its patients.

If you are a healthcare professional and are interested in learning more about how the new tort reform law may affect your practice, and/or you are seeking assistance with the review of your business model, policies and documentation, please feel free to reach out to the experienced health care attorneys at Nicholson & Eastin, LLP today for a consultation.