March 6, 2006
Florida & Joint & Several Liability
I mentioned it before (including the statutory language) but this article has a better-than-average summary of the arguments for and against the elimination of joint and several liability. It looks likely to pass Florida this year according to most observers.
'The way the system is right now, you can pay more than what you're adjudicated guilty of. That's not American,'' said Barney T. Bishop III, president of Associated Industries of Florida, a business lobbying group.
Business groups claim so-called ''deep-pocket'' rules encourage speculative lawsuits. Opponents counter that doing away with joint and several liability will shift the burden to the injured party and possibly taxpayers.
Paul Jess, general counsel for the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, offered this example: A patient goes into the hospital to have a leg amputated. The nurse marks the wrong leg and the mistake isn't caught by the doctor, who doesn't have enough insurance to cover his share of fault.
* * *
''If you're the guy with no legs, wouldn't you want to be compensated by the wrongdoers?'' Jess asked. ``Why would you want to be on Medicare or welfare? Why would you as a taxpayer want to pay for someone else's wrongdoing?''
As the story points out, Florida already has fairly significant restrictions on joint & several liability, with no imposition on defendants found 10% or less at fault and caps on exposure for up to 50% at fault (and some limitations even above 50%).
I still haven't seen any data on the impact of abandoning or limiting joint & several liability in states like Arizona. Anyone?
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