August 21, 2006
Unconstitutional Retroactive Statute
Florida courts have twice now declared a statute relating to asbestosis unconstitutional as applied retroactively. As reported over at law.com, a Florida statute was enacted that required courts to dismiss claims of asbestosis plaintiffs who failed to provide detailed medical histories. The statute applied not just prospectively, but to already-filed lawsuits. In response to a defense motion to dismiss based upon the statute, the plaintiffs argued that retroactive application -- to cases pending on the July 2005 effective date of the act -- violated the due process clauses of the Florida and federal constitutions.
So far, two district judges have agreed, holding that it violated the plaintiffs' vested rights to do so.
I had the experience of litigating this issue under the Texas Constitution some years ago (not in the asbestosis context, but close enough), and the courts' reaction to existing cases seems to be correct. Of course, this raises the whole question of severability, and I'm sure years of litigation in Florida.
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