In Case You Missed It: News Clips from the Week
Originally published in the FJA Reading File newsletter on 1/25/19.
How Conservative is Big Insurance Push for State Government Control of Attorneys’ Fees?
When President Richard Nixon enacted wage and price controls in the early 1970s, iconic conservative economist Milton Friedman cautioned that the policy would spur inflation despite creating the illusion of price stability. Friedman – who won a 1987 federal case seeking plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees – was right. Now, insurers are bringing a basket of bad ideas to lawmakers. Big insurance companies and their supporters in the business lobby are gaining steam in their years-long mission to have lawmakers reject free-market conservative theory and impose new government mandates on attorneys’ fees. This well-coordinated, multi-pronged, and heavy-handed attack on the civil justice rights of Floridians is so brash in its expansion of government power it would make Venezuela’s Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro blush. The attack was evident this week in workshops on attorneys’ fees in workers’ compensation and homeowners’ insurance rights. Civil justice advocates are watchful for legislative action involving insurer bad faith, medical malpractice, and other critical civil justice issues. It’s important to remember Florida’s 1838 Constitutionguaranteed Floridians access to the courts. That right is as old as the Magna Carta and endures today as Article I, Section 21 of the Florida Constitution. Combined with the U.S. Constitution’s Seventh Amendmentchampioned by James Madison, Florida’s courts have rejected arbitrary government-mandated attorneys’ fee limits as unconstitutional barriers to people’s access to the courts. If big insurance can compel lawmakers to take away people’s Constitutional civil justice rights, what keeps them from going after our other freedoms?
The 2019 Legislature is at work and civil justice is on the line. Get engaged in shaping the issues important to your clients, law practice, and the preservation of civil justice rights in Florida. Learn more in the 2019 FJA ISSUES BOOK – the tool FJA’s leaders use in their meetings with legislators.
With Layoffs and Stock Downgrades, What’s Up with Driverless Car Developers?
With CEO Tim Cook saying health initiatives are the key to the company’s future growth, Apple is reportedly dropping 200 employees from its stealth autonomous vehicle group Project Titan. According to NBC News, the quest for fully driverless cars remains in the “experimental” phase – even for players like Tesla, Waymo, and Cruise. Tesla, which just announced it’s cutting costs by laying off seven percent of its full-time workforce and retaining its most critical temporary workers and contractors, is currently facing headwinds in the financial market with downgrades of its stock. “Tesla will need to make these cuts while increasing the Model 3 production rate and making many manufacturing engineering improvements in the coming months,” CEO Elon Musk wrote to company employees. “The road ahead is very difficult. This is not new for us – we have always faced significant challenges – but it is the reality we face.” TheStreet.com notes Tesla’s autonomous driving software is on the positive side of the ledger. “You could make an argument that other automakers will have similar technology — like GM — but at the same time, we’re seeing valuations for Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo reach as high as $175 billion. Investors can debate the value of Tesla’s autonomous unit, but it’s certainly not zero.” In the meantime, Waymo finds itself in an apparently better position after recently announcing it has received approval to build the world’s first factory dedicated to the mass production Level 4 driverless vehicles. It will be several years before vehicles roll out of the planned factory in Southeast Michigan.
Florida Lawmakers Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete on Driverless Car Legislation
Ready to take another swing at passing legislation to turn Florida’s roadways to test tracks for driverless cars, State Rep. Jason Fischer has filed legislation (HB 311) to get the technology rolling in the state. State Sen. Jeff Brandes is expected to file companion legislation in the Senate. Like prior years, the proposal needs more work in the area of safety and accountability before it is “road ready.” If the legislation as written becomes law, there is no means for the parents of a child killed by a malfunctioning driverless car to hold the automaker accountable. As policymakers realized after 2018’s fatal Arizona crash involving a driverless vehicle, the new technology can have potentially deadly glitches.
Law Firm Innovation Under the Microscope
How is your law firm embracing innovation? Legal Institute for Forward Thinking Co-Founder David J. Parnell recently completed an industry-wide survey on the state of innovation in law firms. He found widespread understanding of the importance of innovation. Another finding, he found a need for full-scale support and investment in innovation. “Law firms that have gained critical mass are very competitive. And where innovation is a tool to gain competitive advantage, its lukewarm reception by the legal industry is unlikely to be a mistake or rooted in ignorance,” Parnell wrote in a Law.com article. Parnell believes as market pressures increase, law firms will increase investment in innovation.
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