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Bad faith measure unlikely to pass this year

Gary Fineout, 04/04/2011 – 08:09 PM

A measure intended to limit so-called “bad faith” lawsuits against insurance companies appears unlikely to pass during the 2011 session. 

“Bad faith” lawsuits are filed against insurers that claim the company failed to financially protect policyholders and did not promptly settle liability claims. Business organizations and insurers have been pushing legislation this year that would set standards for bad faith claims as well as limit attorney fees in cases involving motorist coverage. 

A House subcommittee spent more than two hours on the bill Monday but Rep. Dennis Baxley was forced to temporarily postpone a vote on HB 1187 even after he amended the legislation. Baxley conceded that he did not have the votes to get through the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, although he contended it was close. This is the last scheduled meeting of the subcommittee for the 2011 session, meaning it is highly unlikely that the bill will go anywhere this year. A Senate version — SB 1592 — passed its first committee stop but only by a one-vote margin. 

Baxley, R-Ocala, acknowledged he has an uphill battle, but he refused to say the bill was absolutely dead. 

“I’ve been around long enough to say nothing is ever over,” Baxley said. 

Baxley had tried to convince lawmakers to give him guidance on how to save his bill, saying at one point “I’m begging with you to help me write the right bill.” 

Baxley argued that the legislation was needed to give clear direction in a complicated arena of law that has largely been shaped by court decisions and case law and not the Legislature. 

But while business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the bill, lawyers in the field, as well as those representing the Florida Justice Association, argued that the measure would give an advantage to insurance companies, even to the detriment of small business owners who purchase liability insurance.

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