A Senate committee Tuesday approved a bill that seeks to shield businesses and insurance companies from costly lawsuits, but Democrats and Republicans said they want to see changes.
Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican who is sponsoring the bill (SB 236), said he will continue trying to find a “balance” in negotiations with the House.
The bill, approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, would revamp a series of laws dealing with issues such as attorney fees, medical costs, and what is known as “bad faith.” Sen. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, and Sen. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, expressed concerns about how the bad-faith changes could affect small businesses.
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Generally, bad faith cases involve allegations that insurers did not properly handle and settle claims.
Meanwhile, Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, expressed concern about part of the bill that would eliminate what are known as “one-way attorney fees” in lawsuits against insurers.
One-way attorney fees have long required insurers to pay the attorney fees of plaintiffs who are successful in lawsuits.
“We’re setting up a David and Goliath system,” Thompson said. House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, has made the changes, commonly known as tort reform, a top priority for the legislative session that started Tuesday.
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the House version of the bill (HB 837) on Wednesday.
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