Running To The Courthouse: Florida’s Far-Reaching Tort Reform Law & A Reduced Statute Of Limitations In Negligence Cases
On March 24, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a far-reaching tort reform bill. 1 According to Governor DeSantis, “Florida has been considered a judicial hellhole for far too long[,] and we are desperately in need of legal reform that brings us more in line with the rest of the country[.]”2 It is a sweeping revision in the realm of tort law and will undoubtedly change how tort cases are handled in the state. Indeed, thousands of lawsuits were filed across Florida in the days prior to Governor DeSantis signing the bill into law.3 The legislation applies to cases filed after the date of signing.4 This blog post will highlight one aspect of the new law—the statute of limitations (that is, the time you have to file a lawsuit) in general negligence claims. The new legislation reduces the statute of limitations in negligence claims from four years to two.5
In the employment law realm, we sometimes pursue negligence claims, including negligent hiring and negligent retention. As a federal court has noted, “The elements to state a claim for negligent retention are the same as negligent hiring/selection. That is, a plaintiff must allege that ‘(1) the agent/employee/contractor was incompetent or unfit to perform the work; (2) the employer knew or reasonably should have known of the particular incompetence or unfitness; and (3) the incompetence or unfitness was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.’”6 As can be expected, negligent hiring occurs prior to employment, and negligent retention occurs during employment. By way of example for negligent retention, if Company A had a previous complaint that employee Rachel was responsible for physically attacking employee Anna at work, but Company maintained Rachel’s employment, Company may be held liable for negligent retention if employee Rachel subsequently attacks employee Shana. Under the new law, Shana would have two years from the date of the incident to file a complaint in the proper court for negligent retention against Company (she may have other claims as well, including a battery claim against Rachel). It is vital for individuals to understand the reduced statute of limitations and file a complaint within the appropriate timeframe.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, or any topic related to labor and employment law, please contact us.
1 Press Release, Office of the Governor of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Comprehensive Legal Reforms Into Law (Mar. 24, 2023), available at https://www.flgov.com/2023/03/24/governor-ron-desantis-signs-comprehensive-legal-reforms-into-law/ (last visited Apr. 25, 2023).
3 John Kennedy, Fear of new limits prompts flood of lawsuits before DeSantis signed restrictions into law, TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT, Mar. 25, 2023, available at https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2023/03/24/thousands-lawsuits-filed-florida-before-limits-kick-in-desantis/70045705007/ (last visited Apr. 25, 2023).
5 Press Release, supra note 1.
6 Martinez v. Celebrity Cruises, No. 20-23585, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 4852, at *20-21 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 8, 2021).