David Hart, executive vice president of government and political relations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce
TALLAHASSEE -- Third party funding of civil litigation is under the microscope in Florida as the state Chamber looks to lawmakers to regulate the growing industry.
“We are interested in looking at solutions that would reduce the impacts of this practice. We are already a litigious enough society without third-party investors causing more litigation,” said David Hart, executive vice president of government and political relations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Preparing for the 2020 legislative session, Hart said the chamber’s board members will be setting their legislative agenda and discussing a range of potential solutions to bring transparency to the practice. In the past session, a disclosure bill was introduced, but failed to advance.
“It wouldn’t have stopped the practice, but it would have said juries have a right to know if the case before them is funded by a third party investor,” Hart said. “That is one avenue, legislative cures, but there are some smart attorneys who also hold the view that it’s possible that the [Florida] Supreme Court itself can be helpful with some of this in terms of setting the court rules in terms of a disclosure piece.”
Hart said business leaders across Florida are concerned about the litigation-funding practice and believe it needs to be addressed, as most lending institutions are regulated in some way.
“If you’ve got third parties investing in lawsuits, you are likely increasing the number of lawsuits being filed. In other words, there’s literally a financial market incentivizing it,” he said. “It may be driving up the cost of awards.”
Hart added that this practice also changes the relationship between the attorney and their client.
“I think this is really important and often overlooked,” he said. “In court now that attorney is no longer just representing the interests of the client; he or she is potentially representing the interest of this third party investor. It’s almost like there is this conflict of interest embedded in it.”