by Kristyn Shayon
Just one week after his State of the State address, Florida
Governor Jeb Bush took center stage at a March 15th Tallahassee
rally organized by Florida’s newest legal reform organization,
Florida Justice Reform
Institute (FJRI), an independent coalition of
business, medical and consumer advocates led by some of the
state's top CEOs.
The event, which took place in the Capitol Courtyard, brought
together many key figures from state and national organizations.
National and state leaders such as Governor Jeb Bush, CFO Tom
Gallagher, Senate President Tom Lee, House Speaker Allan Bense
Center for America
attended the rally and spoke in support of civil justice reform.
Tort Reform Association President
acted as master of ceremonies and introduced the speakers.
“Lawsuit abuse is one
of the greatest threats to Florida’s robust business climate.
Several states have enacted tort reform recently, and without
significant action, Florida risks falling behind and
jeopardizing its jobs-friendly business climate,” Governor Bush
said. “I look forward to working with the House and Senate this
session on these important civil justice issues.”
Download Governor Bush's news release with specifics of
provisions he supports
Executive Director of FJRI, said, “Florida’s
economic future depends on meaningful civil justice reform. We
must all unite and work together with state leaders from both
chambers and the executive branch to stop lawsuit abuse.”
Governor Bush announced on Monday that he supports several of the
legal reform proposals, including requiring a plaintiff’s
attorney in a class-action suit to be solely and personally
liable for all of a defendant’s costs should the attorney reject
a settlement offer, and requiring class action suits to be filed
in the county where the alleged event took place, or where the
defendant’s principal place of business is located. According
class action suits can be filed anywhere in the state where the
defendant maintains an office. Often, this leads to the suit
being moved to a more pro-plaintiff jurisdiction.
During the rally, CFA Chairman Steve Hantler (right), an expert on
legal reform and an outspoken supporter of state legal reform
organizations such as the Florida Justice Reform Institute, praised
Governor Bush for his “leadership on legal reform here in
Florida” and went on to say that “common sense legal reforms at
both the state and federal levels that fairly balance the needs
of consumers and business will restore fairness and
predictability to our badly broken tort system without
restricting access for legitimate claims.”
CFA President Dan Pero (left) said of Florida’s current litigation
environment, “Florida can’t stand idly by and just watch its
neighbors in the South make their states better places to live
and do business”. He also commented about the importance of
support from a diverse group of Florida’s citizens, both
consumers and businesses, in order to “build a stronger future
The Towers Perrin “Tort
System 2004 Update” reports that the U.S.
tort system costs $845 dollars per person, and $3,400 for a
family of four in what the FJRI calls a “litigation tax”.
Reforming the tort system in Florida is just one of many steps
to fixing the system, but the rally sends a clear message that
there is a coalition of state and national organizations
prepared to implement a strong campaign in favor of the measures
pending in Florida.
Some legislative observers believe that passing the reform bills
will be an uphill fight. Governor Bush’s support for tort reform
in Florida is seen as critical as the state’s legislative
session gets underway. By appearing today, he has made it clear
that he intends for Florida to fall in line with President
George W. Bush’s pro-reform vision for America.
it remains to be seen how supportive House and Senate Leadership
will be to the Governor’s pro-reform platform, the FJRI rally is
seen a key turning point in bringing legal reform advocates
together in a coordinated campaign to reform Florida’s current
abusive legal environment. With the support and involvement of
many Florida CEOs, business groups are starting to work together
instead of fighting over marginal differences in their
Proponents are gearing up for a major campaign. FJRI has begun
airing the first 30-second TV spot, entitled "In the Name of
Justice", on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, 60 Minutes, The
Usual Suspects, and other broadcast and cable programs. This
inaugural commercial is complemented by a 60-second radio spot
entitled "For the Sake of Justice" and a full-page ad in the
Tallahassee Democrat. Additional media markets will be rolled
out as well.
Television commercial and listen to
are taking our message from the courtroom to the court of public
opinion because lawsuit abuse is hurting our small businesses,
our access to healthcare and real victims, affecting everyone
with higher costs and greater uncertainty," FJRI Executive
Director Pam Philp said at the rally. "It's a legal lottery
that's painted a bulls-eye on the state of Florida, and everyone
who lives here."
Key business organizations outside Florida are focusing attention
on the need for reform in the state as well. In a statement last
Insurance Association (AIA) called for change –
especially in Florida. AIA Southeast Region VP Cecil Pearce
said, “AIA is pleased that Gov. Jeb Bush has made tort reform
one of the top priorities of his final two years in office. We
will be working with our civil justice coalition partners to
bring stability and fairness back to the legal environment in
Across the South, many state legislatures are moving swiftly to
consider legal reform bills during their current sessions.
successfully passed comprehensive tort reform into law, and
may follow suit.