Florida Tort Reform
by Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyers Tragos & Sartes
In October of 1999, the Florida state legislature created a bill that included sweeping changes to the tort area of civil law suits. This was then signed into law by the governor. Tort is defined as a civil wrong or injury committed upon a person, by Black’s Law Dictionary. This area of the law encompasses everything from slip and fall actions to complex product liability cases.
One of the areas that was hard hit by this new law was the area of punitive damages. Previously, there had been almost zero restriction on what a jury could award to the injured party. Now, however, a jury cannot award punitive damages to the injured party of more than three times the total amount of damages incurred or more than $500,000. A loophole here is that when it can be shown that the misconduct was “motivated solely by unreasonable financial gain”, then four times the actual damages incurred can be awarded to the injured party. In addition, the cap becomes $2 million dollars. This cap can be removed by the court when specific intent on the part of the defendant to cause harm can be proven.
Also affected by the more recent law are the standards of proof governing entitlement. The new rules are more restrictive and require a higher standard of proof than the old did. Also affected was the process of pleading punitive damages claims.
In the products liability area of torts, or personal injury, a statute of repose was imposed. This means that there is now a limitation of time during which a lawsuit can be filed. In most cases, the lawsuit must arise within 12 years of the expiration of the product’s expected useful life. Most products are given a 10 year expected lifespan. It is important to note that some defective products, like aircraft, railroad equipment, elevators, and escalators, are exempt from this statute of repose.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident that in any way can be tied to the misconduct of others, contact the Clearwater personal injury lawyers of the Law Offices of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos, P.L.L.C. They are here to answer any questions you may have concerning your case and recent efforts at tort reform.