On Friday, March 24, 2023, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 837: Civil Remedies, bringing sweeping tort reform in the state of Florida. In a statement, the governor said, “Florida has been considered a judicial hellhole for far too long, and we are desperately in need of legal reform that brings [Florida] more in line with the rest of the country.” The law introduces significant changes to how lawsuits are litigated in Florida.
Although the new law modifies numerous statutes, this practice point focuses on the changes related to statutes of limitation, comparative negligence, and the admissibility of evidence of medical charges at trial.
The law specifically provides that the shortened statute of limitations applies to negligence causes of action accruing after March 24, 2023. The act otherwise applies to “causes of action filed after the effective date of this act,” which is also March 24, 2023. A flurry of new lawsuits (some estimates exceed 100,000 new filings) arrived in the short time between the Florida Senate passing the law—in a 23–15 vote—and the governor’s signature.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations sets the maximum amount of time after an injury that an aggrieved party may file a lawsuit against a defendant. The new law reduces the statute of limitations for general negligence actions from four years to two years. However, the limitations period for other types of claims—including claims founded on the design, manufacture, distribution or sale of personal property—remains unchanged. The differences in the statutes of limitations could result in garden-variety negligence claims being (improperly) cast as other causes of action to avoid a statute-of-limitations defense for a general negligence claim.