Senate Bill 76 will address excessive litigation and runaway attorney fees that are responsible for driving exorbitant rate increases for consumers
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Consumer Protection Coalition (CPC) applauds the vote by the Senate Rules Committee today to send Senate Bill 76 – an important reform measure that will address the current crisis in the state’s domestic property insurance market – to the full Senate for consideration.
“Florida’s homeowners are being whiplashed by double-digit rate increases and fewer options for purchasing coverage, with excessive litigation and runaway attorney fees to blame,” said Carolyn Johnson, Senior Director of Business, Economic Development & Innovation Policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which spearheads the CPC. “Senate Bill 76 contains common-sense reforms that will directly address the root causes of Florida’s current property insurance market crisis and will help protect consumers from the impacts of the bad behavior we are seeing in the marketplace.”
Senate Bill 76, sponsored by Senator Jim Boyd, addresses attorney fee multipliers and other attorney fee provisions that are fueling the explosion of property insurance litigation, reins in questionable solicitations by roofers that are also driving lawsuits, and reasonably reduces the time period for filing a claim from three years to two years to halt questionable claims that are filed years after a loss has occurred.
The bill would limit attorney fee multipliers, which allow lawyers to petition courts to more than double their fees, to rare and unusual circumstances, as was originally intended. The Florida Justice Reform Institute documented one case in which a jury awarded a homeowner $41,000 in a lawsuit with an insurer over a plumbing leak, but the court awarded $1.2 million in attorney fees – nearly 30 times what the homeowner received. The current standard of allowing the multiplier to be used in routine cases “could further incentivize plaintiffs’ attorneys to proceed with costly litigation as opposed to exploring other avenues of claims resolution,” the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said.
“The CPC would like to thank Senator Boyd and other Senate leaders for their hard work in advancing this good, consumer-focused legislation to the Senate floor, and we encourage the full Senate to approve its passage,” Johnson said. “We encourage House leaders to come together with their Senate counterparts and pass reforms that will address the root problems driving Florida’s property insurance litigation problem.”