Following major victories for lawsuit reform efforts in Georgia and South Carolina this year, attention has shifted to Florida, where the legislature's session is scheduled to last only through the end of this week. Governor Jeb Bush has proposed an ambitious package of reforms that includes protection for defendants from some premises-liability and negligent-security suits, a defense for retailers from being named in certain product liability suits, and a measure protecting owners of cars from being sued over some accidents that other persons get into while driving their vehicles. The Miami Daily Business Review covered the controversy recently as well as earlier in the year. The St. Petersburg Times reports that trial lawyers have succeeded in roping in prosecuting attorneys to lobby in Tallahassee (no doubt without expending any public funds) against granting business any broad immunity from negligent-security suits over depredations committed by criminals in parking lots and elsewhere on their premises.
The business community in Florida, often weak in the past, has been pursuing a variety of different approaches to the issue. Associated Industries of Florida is backing the newly formed Florida Coalition for Legal Reform, which favors a push for an ambitious omnibus bill addressing many issues, while the state's Chamber of Commerce is directing its efforts through the Florida Justice Reform Institute, also new, which is more geared toward a long-term shift in climate. Business alarm over the state of Florida's legal system was apparently touched off by two slip-and-fall cases that reached the state's highest court, both involving banana peels (although I can think of a few other cases that might have provoked justified alarm). See also Apr. 21 (teaching hospitals), Apr. 29 (asbestos).