“It appears you no longer have to be a Democrat to be a friend of the trial bar in Florida,” William Stander, government affairs representative in Tallahassee for the Alliance of American Insurers (AAI), said.
Stander’s remarks came after the Senate Committee on Health, Aging and Long-Term Care voted against a number of key reforms proposed in a series of Senate bills, including caps on non-economic damages in SB 558. They also reportedly gutted reforms to Florida’s unique and punitive bad faith laws that had been included in SB 560.
“A key component of the tort reform package is a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases,” Stander said. “The 10-1 vote against that cap is a clear indication of the trial bar’s influence on key Republicans in the Senate.
“The House Republicans, unlike the Senate, had the courage to stand up to the trial bar and say ‘enough is enough’ as they gave preliminary approval to HB 1713 yesterday. But it’s clear now that the efforts of the Governor’s Task Force and the House Select Committee to bring a logical solution to Florida’s health care crisis may be in jeopardy.”
HB 1713 would place a $250,000 limit on awards for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. This is the limit also suggested in proposed federal legislation that has been supported by President Bush and blessed by the House of Representatives. The cap on non-economic damages has reportedly proved successful in having a positive effect on insurance rates for medical professionals in California, where reforms were passed over 20 years ago. The cap does not limit damages for other costs such as medical bills or lost wages.
The Alliance of American Insurers has joined with doctors, hospitals, business representatives and other insurance industry groups to push the reform effort and has strongly supported HB 1713.
“The nation is looking to Florida’s lawmakers to take a stand against unwarranted lawsuits and outrageous jury verdicts and set an example for tort reform across this country. Sadly, unless the Senate stands up to the trial bar, Florida will once again be embarrassed as a result of politics and lawyers,” Stander added.
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