The Orlando Sentinel has an editorial today decrying frivolous lawsuits in Florida. The editorial provides a class example of frivolous lawsuits filed by Florida personal injury lawyers that are destroying Florida:
“For example, last year a law enforcement officer in Central Florida was among those who responded to a 911 call when a 1-year-old fell into a swimming pool. The officer injured her knee when she slipped on a puddle of water left when the child was removed from the pool. The child survived but was brain-damaged. The officer, however, sued the child’s family, even though all her bills were covered by the city. Thankfully, the officer’s frivolous slip-and-fall lawsuit received so much negative attention that she withdrew it.”
Does this example support even more tort reform in Florida? Of course, people will bring frivolous complaints under any system. If the goal is zero tolerance for complaints that turn out to have little merit in our legal system, we will have to make a lot of changes. The reality is the police will bring charges against people that are later shown to be innocent, the government will go after pharmaceutical companies and later find they committed no violations, and you will accuse your spouse/friend/child of a “crime” they did not commit. Hopefully, these errors/mistakes/misunderstandings are caught before too much harm is done.
In this case, the system worked. A claim without merit was brought and the claimant—presumably with help from his personal injury lawyer or the system—realized the claim was without foundation.
Tort reform in Florida is an issue that has been debated for many years. In the 1980s, the Florida Legislature enacted several measures to limit the damages that could be awarded in personal injury cases. This included caps on damages, limits on attorneys‘ fees, and other restrictions. In recent years, several bills have been proposed in the state legislature that would further restrict the ability of individuals to seek damages in civil court. However, these bills have yet to pass. The Florida Supreme Court has also weighed in on the issue, ruling that certain aspects of tort reform, such as caps on non–economic damages, are unconstitutional.