Crist signs slip-and-fall reform

John O'Brien Apr. 15, 2010, 4:35pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - It wasn't just the transparency bill signed by Gov. Charlie Crist Wednesday that pleased a Florida legal reform organization.

Crist also signed a bill that puts the burden of proof back on the plaintiff in slip-and-fall lawsuits. Plaintiffs will now have to show that a business knew of a dangerous condition yet didn't correct it.

The Florida Justice Reform Institute applauded the law.

"Prior to today, Florida businesses were being forced to devote significant resources to defending lawsuits, strangling the financial stability of owners and employees," FJRI president William Large said.

"Reinserting a logical standard of constructive notice will help protect businesses that drive the state's economic engine."

A 2002 court ruling forced businesses to prove they had safe conditions in slip-and-fall lawsuits.

The annual Judicial Hellholes report, released in December by the American Tort Reform Foundation, listed South Florida as the No. 1 hellhole in the country and said the area had a growing reputation for slip-and-fall suits.

Wednesday, Crist also signed into a law a bill that increases transparency in contracts given to private attorneys while capping the amount they can make.

The law will affect private attorneys hired by the Attorney General's Office and is modeled after current policies in place under Attorney General Bill McCollum. It includes a tier system that caps attorneys fees at $50 million.

"Attorney General (Bill) McCollum was a driving force behind this legislation, recognizing that during these trying economic times, the state, and more importantly the taxpayers, cannot withstand the risk of egregiously inflated attorney fees," Large said.

"General McCollum and his office worked tirelessly on this legislation which protects Floridians while ensuring the Attorney General can contract with private attorneys without significantly compromising the state's resources by promoting fairness, transparency, accountability and fiscal prudence."

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