Florida Record

Friday, February 21, 2020

Think tank advocates further reforms for Florida legal system

Attorneys & Judges

By John Breslin | Dec 13, 2019


TALLAHASSEE -- Further reforms of Florida's legal system are needed to protect its residents and foster free enterprise, according to a free market think tank.

The call for reforms are part of a 20-point wish list for the upcoming legislative sessions published by the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute.

Although the institute did not specify particular reforms, business leaders have identified further tightening of rules around assignment of benefits and looking at the way "bad faith" claims are settled. If an insurance firm is found to have acted in bad faith, including unreasonably refusing, delaying or properly investigating a claim - or defending one against a third party - it can face increased damages when sued.

"Reforming bad faith has been a Florida Chamber of Commerce priority for over a decade, and third parties should also be forced to act in good faith when settling insurance claims," Carolyn Johnson the Florida Chamber's director of business, economic development and innovation, told the Florida Record. "The courts have exacerbated the issue by continuing to broaden the definition of bad faith to mere negligence in claims handling allowing multimillion dollar awards." 

The chamber also wants reform of assignment of benefits, which was passed in the previous session of the legislature, extended to auto claims and "also believes that assignment of benefits reform is necessary for auto glass claims," Johnson said.

"Just like in homeowners insurance claims, insureds often do not understand what they are signing and then they can be involved in inflated claims against their insurance company and even worse, party to a lawsuit,” she said

Gov. Ron De Santis signed into law HB 7065, which, among other provisions, introduced an attorney fee structure when an assignee wins an award against an insurer and also requires insurance companies and a customer is to be given at least 10 business days notice before a suit is filed.

An assignment of benefit agreement transfers the insurance claims rights or benefits of a policy to a third party, which can then sue an insurer.

"Florida continues to be an aggressive state in advancing conservative governing principles,” Sal Nuzzo, the James Madison Institute vice president of policy, told Florida Daily.

“We are taking a cue from the country’s most popular governor and our bold legislature in providing 20 big ideas for 2020. It’s our hope that with the help of our members, donors, and friends across the country, JMI will continue to set the pace for liberty, freedom, and opportunity for all Floridians.”

Other policy points include occupational licensing reform, to expand market-based health care reforms and "address challenges in Florida’s criminal justice system via effective sentencing reform," Nuzzo said.

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