The Florida Senate Rules Committee on Thursday began its consideration of legislation to allow for prejudgment interest on non-economic damages in tort cases. The proposal is similar to laws already on the books in 38 other states.
The Committee accepted an amendment from Sen. Tom Lee, of Tampa, that provides discretion to judges on when to award prejudgment interest in cases.
“This bill resolves a loophole that we have in Florida law that treats injured people differently than all other litigants. It’s an anomaly in our law that ultimately favors property over people,” Florida Justice Association President Jimmy Gustafson told the committee. “If you are found to be in the wrong and you owed someone and you withheld that person’s money, you should pay interest on what you owe. The folks that settle are not going to have prejudgment interest. The only people that will pay are those who were found to be in the wrong.”
The Committee “temporarily postponed” the legislation, meaning members will have to consider the legislation at another meeting.
“Unfortunately, insurance companies did what they do best in committee– delay delay delay at the expense of governmental systems and the taxpayers who fund it,” said Florida Justice Association Legislative and Political Director Jeff Porter after the meeting. “We look forward to moving this discussion forward in future weeks of session.”
After the meeting, reporters asked Senate President Joe Negron about the legislation.
“I support prejudgment interest,” President Negron told reporters. “I think that if a defendant is found by a judge or jury to not have, improperly not paid something they should have paid, that interest during that time where the money was being held should be awarded to the plaintiff. Otherwise, they’re an incentive for cases to simply drag out and for plaintiffs to not get their funds and get justice as quickly as they should.”