Florida’s claim bill process–by which individuals can petition the legislature for payment of tort claims against government–is too arbitrary, too political and lacks equity and transparency, according to a report released Thursday by Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institution and government watchdog headquartered in Tallahassee.
The report shows that while there has not been a proliferation of claim bills filed or passed, awards have increased significantly. Last year, 11 claim bills were passed by the legislature, containing awards totaling $39.8 million. This included the first two awards exceeding $10 million in Florida’s history–$15.0 million and $10.75 million. A record $140 million was requested in 2011, and there are 25 claim bills filed for the 2013 legislative session, requesting more than $50 million in damages. Leading up to the current Session, the Florida House of Representatives created a Select Committee on Claim Bills to develop recommendations for reform.
“As more high-cost settlements are approved, there is likely to be a growing call for ever-increasing awards,” said Dominic Calabro, President and CEO. “The size of these awards must be controlled in order to avoid each new award setting a precedent that leads to further escalation of the size of claims against the state and local governments and their taxpayers.”
The Florida TaxWatch Report offers the following recommendations:
- Create an expedited process for settled claim bills;
- Cap non-economic damages;
- Limit lobbying fees;
- Make the actual amounts paid for medical expenses admissible at trial and in claim bill hearings and use actual compensation as estimates for future medical costs;
- Explore requiring that the sponsor of a claims bill be from the jurisdiction where the incident took place or from where the claimant resides, with allowances made for localities with limited legislative representation; and
- Allow local government to use periodic payments of judgments