Constitutional challenge filed to Florida tort `reform' statute.
In December, a coalition of 10 organizations, joined by 2 taxpayers, filed a declaratory judgment declaratory judgment
In law, a judgment merely declaring a right or establishing the legal status or interpretation of a law or instrument. It is binding but is distinguished from other judgments or court opinions in that it includes no executive element (an order that action in the Circuit Court of Leon County Leon County is the name of several counties in the United States:
According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the complaint filed by the plaintiffs, the legislature enacted the law "for the express benefit of corporations, big businesses, and their insurers who otherwise would be held fully accountable for their negligent and unlawful acts that cause injury to Florida citizens." (Florida Consumer Action Network v. Bush, No. 99-6689 (Fla., Leon County Cir. Ct. Dec. 8, 1999).)
The complaint said the law was "the culmination of unprecedented business lobbying and financial contributions to legislators who rewarded business interests by enacting legislation that transfers responsibility for catastrophically injured Florida citizens from corporate wrongdoers to the injured citizens and the taxpayers."
The law, which largely went into effect October 1, 1999, set up a confusing multi-tiered approach to joint and several liability that caps defendants' damages based on the percentages of fault assigned to plaintiffs and defendants. The law mandates arbitration in certain circumstances, creates a presumption that products have a useful life of 10 years unless otherwise warranted, ends aircraft manufacturer liability for planes older than 20 years, and caps punitive damage awards.
The law also insulates rental car companies from full responsibility for injuries caused by the operation of their motor vehicles, eviscerates numerous common law causes of action, immunizes business interests from full accountability for their negligent and wrongful acts, and changes the process and procedures of the courts to benefit defendants.
The plaintiffs charge that the law violates multiple provisions of the Florida Constitution The Florida Constitution is the document that establishes and describes the duties, powers, structure and function of the government of the U.S. state of Florida, and establishes the basic law of the state. , including separation of powers separation of powers: see Constitution of the United States.
separation of powers
Division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government among separate and independent bodies. , equal protection, due process, the right of access to the courts, the right to a jury trial, and the bar against special legislation.
The state attorney general's office will defend the law. In addition, tort "reform" groups have raised substantial sums toward a goal of $1.5 million to hire a legal team in the law's defense.
The plaintiff coalition represents a broad array of Floridians. It includes the Florida Consumer Action Network, the Coalition for Family Safety, Florida League of Conservation Voters The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is an independent, nonpartisan political advocacy organization that was founded in 1969 by the noted American environmentalist David Brower. , Florida AFL-CIO, Association of Flight Attendants The Association of Flight Attendants (commonly known as AFA) is a union representing flight attendants in the United States. AFA represents 55,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, making it the world's largest flight attendant union. , DES Action USA, Children's Advocacy Foundation, Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, Florida NAACP NAACP
in full National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Oldest and largest U.S. civil rights organization. It was founded in 1909 to secure political, educational, social, and economic equality for African Americans; W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. , Florida National Organization for Women, and Florida State Council of Senior Citizens, Inc.
The coalition is represented by W.C. Gentry and Wayne Hogan, two past presidents of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers; Miami lawyer Joel S. Perwin; and Robert S. Peck, ATLA's senior director for Legal Affairs and Policy Research.