Florida Senate approves 'crashworthiness' measure
In a victory for car makers and a setback for plaintiffs' lawyers, the Florida Senate on Wednesday approved a new so-called crashworthiness doctrine in applying fault in product liability cases. The bill (SB 142) passed on a 28-12 vote, with all Republicans but one voting yes and all Democrats but one voting no. Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, voted no and Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, voted yes.
The bill overrules a Florida Supreme Court decision, D'Amario v. Ford Motor Co., and is the first major tort reform measure of the 2011 session. "When the Supreme Court is wrong," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, "it is incumbent on the Legislature to reverse what they did."
Jurors will be required to consider other facts in deciding fault, including whether a driver was impaired at the time or a crash. "This is about common sense. We should not disrespect the jury. We should put the facts on the table so a jury can hear them," said the bill sponsor, Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples.