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DeSantis Defeats Trump on Lawsuit Abuse

This is outrageous. Think of poor Willie Gingrich!

Jesus, seriously you're not familiar with only the greatest lawyer that ever lived. Played by Walter Matthau.

DeSantis Defeats Trump on Lawsuit Abuse

The Florida Governor beats the trial bar and its Mar-a-Lago ally.

By The Editorial Board, WSJMarch 31, 2023 6:35 pm ET

Donald Trump is grabbing anything to attack Ron DeSantis, and he’s even joining forces with the plaintiff bar in a bizarre alliance. Fortunately for Floridians, their Governor won this exchange.

Mr. DeSantis last Friday signed legislation that will reduce legal costs for businesses, insurers and their customers. Litigation abuse is a tax that every citizen pays into the tort system, costing each Florida household more than $5,000 in 2020, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.

Enter Mr. DeSantis, who this year proposed a package of tort reforms to curb abuses. Several changes target plaintiff attorneys’ common practice of inflating damages by presenting to juries the charges for medical costs billed by healthcare providers rather than what health insurers would pay out, which is typically much less.

Collusive agreements between physicians and lawyers to inflate charges will no longer be protected by attorney-client privilege. Lawyers could previously ensure that juries saw only the inflated amounts billed by their hand-picked doctors, and juries often based awards on those trumped-up bills.

Florida law also previously allowed juries to allocate damages even for accidents caused by a plaintiff. If someone burned himself by spilling hot coffee on his lap, a coffee shop could be on the hook for paying some of his medical costs. No longer. Now if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, he can’t recover damages.

Another change eliminates “one-way attorney fees,” which let plaintiffs collect massive attorney fees from defendants and their insurers if they win a lawsuit—but not the other way around. One-way fees encourage plaintiff attorneys to file more lawsuits and defendants to settle cases to avoid paying even larger legal bills.

Mr. DeSantis’s reforms provoked a five-alarm panic among plaintiff attorneys who ran ads targeting immigrants that recalled power grabs in socialist Venezuela and Cuba. “Today in Tallahassee powerful lobbies are spending millions to take our rights,” one ad warned. “If they succeed the law will protect them, but not us. It will let them take everything. We’ve seen it before, lived it before.”

Donald Trump piled on at Truth Social: “RINO Ron DeSanctimonious is delivering the biggest insurance company BAILOUT to Globalist Insurance Companies, IN HISTORY.” With his usual nuance, he called the reforms “the worst Insurance Scam in the entire Country!”

He’s got the wrong scammers. By reducing payouts for dubious claims, the Florida reforms will cut insurance premiums for businesses and citizens. Irony alert: This will benefit Mr. Trump’s properties in the state.

Plaintiff attorneys last week rushed to file claims before Mr. DeSantis signed the legislation since the changes aren’t retroactive. Over three days last week, Morgan & Morgan says it filed 23,000 cases, 3,000 more than in all of 2022. Some lawyers may move north to Georgia, which the American Tort Reform Association last year rated as the country’s worst judicial hellhole.

The Georgia Legislature has defeated several efforts to curb lawsuit abuse, but maybe Mr. DeSantis’s victory will prod Gov. Brian Kemp to take up the cause. As for Mr. Trump, we doubt he cares about the substance.

Copyright ©2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the April 1, 2023, print edition as 'DeSantis Defeats Trump on Torts'.

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