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    Justices won't hear tort reform case

    The state Supreme Court refuses to be the next step for a law limiting product liability lawsuits.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2001

    TALLAHASSEE -- In the latest battle between the courts and state legislators, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a case overturning a 1999 law that helped shield businesses from lawsuits and damage awards.

    The court's unusual 6-0 decision returns the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which had asked the state's highest court to take over the case because it involves "issues of great public importance."

    The matter began when Circuit Judge Nikki Ann Clark threw out the 1999 law approved by a Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush.

    The law was hailed by business lobbyists as a major victory in their fight against frivolous lawsuits.

    It put a 12-year deadline on most lawsuits on product liability and a 20-year deadline for lawsuits against airplane manufacturers. It also capped punitive damages unless a victim could prove intentional wrongdoing.

    Clark said legislators crammed too many differing subjects into one bill, violating a constitutional requirement that laws address a single subject.

    Lawyers for the state, Associated Industries and other businesses urged the Supreme Court to let the district court hear the first appeal.

    "We are hoping for an in-depth, methodical look at the whole law," said Jon Shebel, president of Associated Industries.

    Dexter Douglass, one of the lawyers representing the Florida Consumer Action Network and others who challenged the law, called the decision "just another bump in the road."

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