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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida Republicans are leading efforts to revamp state's lawsuit environment

Paul Renner
Phil Sears/AP
FR170567 AP
House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast opens the Special Session Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.

Republican leaders are supporting the HB 837 legislation, which would change how civil claims and lawsuits are handled.

Republican Florida House Speaker Paul Renner has made House Bill 837 a priority in the new legislative session. The legislation is even backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but critics have doubts over whether the bill will improve the state’s insurance markets.

If passed, the bill would change how civil claims and lawsuits are handled. The bill deals with things like personal injury and insurance claims. It revises how payouts are calculated and determined and would shorten the timeframe for an injured person to file a claim. Democratic Representative Hillary Cassell of Dania Beach worries it gives large insurers an advantage.

“This bill is too extreme," said Cassell at a press conference Wednesday. "This bill takes all the tools away from David against Goliath for insurance premiums that you have paid for, worked for, and that put your head on your pillow at night with that security knowing the insurance company will be here when you need it.”

Republican leaders are supporting the legislation. DeSantis says the bill will lower premiums in the state’s insurance market with the hopes of encouraging more companies to offer insurance in Florida.

“I’m for legal reform, clearly when you look at how our legal system is set up it is designed to invite litigation rather than settlement," said DeSantis. "You see that part of the reason we have had problem with property insurance, part of the reason we have high auto insurance rates because of the litigation climate. I’m not saying don’t do this—don’t do that, I would like to see legal reform across the board.“

Supporters include the pro-business groups, Associated Industries of Florida, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. They say the current liability lawsuit system has been abused. The bill as it is now, does not include any changes to the state’s medical malpractice laws.