Florida lawmakers advanced bill making it easier to sue media outlets for defamation

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pasco County Clerk’s office said they’re seeing a steep increase in lawsuit filings since Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 837 into law Friday.

The law was sold as a way to cut down so-called frivolous lawsuits by limiting injury and insurance litigation and attorney fees. But clerks in numerous counties say it’s having a side effect.

“It’s important for those that are in the court system to know that we might have delays in the civil area,” said Nikki Alvarez-Sowles, Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller.

Alvarez-Sowels said her office typically gets about 12 new filings a day. But just last Tuesday, the office received over 800.

“This huge wave has occurred, and will it continue to occur now that the bill has been signed? I guess time will tell on that,” she added.

According to the governor’s office, House Bill 837, titled Civil Remedies, modifies the “bad faith framework, eliminates one-way attorney’s fees and fee multipliers, and ensures that Floridians can’t be held liable for damages if the person suing is more at fault.”

“As an attorney, you weren’t given much opportunity to decide do I need to file on this case, or do I not need to file on this case based on the changes,” said Anthony Gonzalez, a Tampa-based trial attorney.

“It’s the old David vs. Goliath scenario when it comes to the average Floridian going up against an insurance company,” he added.

Hillsborough County also saw a steep jump in cases. The clerk said the office saw 9,293 cases filed in February. However, in March, that number has jumped to 49,910 so far.

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