TALLAHASSEE – Sinking three slots below its 2012 ranking, Florida has once again found itself listed among the worst lawsuit climates in the country, landing at 44th out of 50, according to the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey conducted by the Harris Poll and released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
Poll participants included 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and company senior executives, and based the ranking on fairness of courts within a state. The survey also revealed 75 percent of respondents reported that a state’s litigation environment carries some weight in making important business decisions.
“What I try to do is advocate on behalf of the business community, the health care community and others for sensible civil justice reforms,” William Large, president of Florida Justice Reform Institute, told the Florida Record. “With that said, there are folks who look at all 50 states including Florida, and one of the groups that does that is the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform; and they rank all 50 states and they’ve got a really impartial method of analyzing each state.”
The Florida Justice Reform Institute is a tort reform advocacy group based in Tallahassee.
Survey respondents indicated that eliminating unnecessary lawsuits, placing reasonable limits on discovery, limiting punitive or other types of damages, and increasing the effectiveness of judicial case management were the most important measures needed to improve the state’s litigation environment.
“The amount of time of each interview was approximately 25 minutes," Large said. "So it was a detailed sort of explanation of all of those issues. And it is unfortunate that Florida ranked No. 44, but it has a lot to do with the confluence of rulings from our appellate courts; and, in particular, the Florida Supreme Court and what the legislature has been up to."
When respondents were presented with a selection of cities or county courts and asked to select up to two jurisdictions they perceived to be the worst in the country, Miami or Dade County was cited in 10 percent of the responses. Philadelphia, St. Louis, Detroit and Washington DC ranked worse than Miami.
A follow-up response revealed 24 percent indicated that the reason a city or county is ranked at the bottom in fair and reasonable litigation environment was because of biased judges and/or juries.
“I am a member of the Florida Bar, so I am familiar with Florida," Large said. "I am not a member of any other bar so I am not as familiar with what is going on in the 49 other states. But the people who answered these questions manage litigation for companies that are in all 50 states. So they are going to see, passing through their desk, cases from all 50 states, and it is extraordinary that (in the opinion of) the people who do that, Florida ranks 44. I am trying to get the ranking up. I am trying to advocate for civil justice reform and next time this study comes out hopefully we are higher.”