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Report indicates Florida tort reform reduced nuclear verdicts

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(The Center Square) — A new report shows that the number of “nuclear” verdicts in the Sunshine State has steadily declined since tort reforms were signed into law in 2023.

Marathon Strategies released its 2024 report on corporate verdicts throughout the U.S., and data shows a 30% rise in juries awarding enormous sums of money in legal cases brought against big corporations. However, Florida is bucking this trend.

According to the report, a “nuclear” verdict awards more than $10 million. A “thermonuclear” verdict awards a plaintiff over $100 million and up to $1 billion. In 2023, these verdicts rose by 27%, and the median settlement was around $40 million.

The report says that Florida was historically second for “nuclear” payouts, but it has since dropped to seventh place after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed new tort reforms into law.

In March 2023, DeSantis signed House Bill 837 and said in a news release at the time that the legislation was designed to safeguard the economy and attract investment into Florida.

“Florida has been considered a judicial hellhole for far too long and we are desperately in need of legal reform that brings us more in line with the rest of the country,” DeSantis said in the statement. “I am proud to sign this legislation to protect Floridians, safeguard our economy and attract more investment in our state.”

Marathon researchers found that once the legislation was in place, Florida went from being the second-most state for “nuclear” verdicts to seventh place, suggesting that the reform had affected the size of awards.

In 2023, post-reform, Florida awarded a total of $491 million, $316 million of which was awarded in state court verdicts, and $175 million by federal courts.

Between 2009 and 2023, Florida juries awarded a whopping $33.19 billion — the top industries included the tobacco, trucking, real estate, and automobile industries — with awards spread out over 175 verdicts.

During that same time period, Florida came in second to Texas, which awarded $45 billion across 207 verdicts, with most awards coming from banks, telecommunications, hardware, and tech industries.

Missouri was number one in 2023 overall for “thermonuclear” verdicts after one was reached against the National Association of Realtors worth $1.8 billion and the $1.5 billion award Roundup case against Bayer AG/Monsanto.