Fla. Bill Reportedly Creates ‘Christmas for Lawyers’ and Harms the Elderly

March 19, 2004

A Florida Senate bill introduced by a prominent legislator and trial attorney would reportedly create “Christmas for trial lawyers” under the guise of protecting the elderly against exploitation by a financial institution.

“The bill’s loophole-laden language provides the trial bar with every legal device to go after any business – from banks and insurers to mom-and-pop operations,” said William Stander, regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). “By wrapping themselves in the flag of ‘elderly protection,’ trial lawyers are trying to appeal to voters in a retiree-rich state during an election year.”

S.B. 2092 provides that “financial exploitation” of an “elderly person” (age 60 or older) by a “financial institution” is unlawful. The bill’s language “is rife with loopholes, leaving it open for interpretation and litigation,” Stander said.

Some of the bill’s language includes:

· A statement that “the provisions…shall be construed liberally to promote the protection of elderly persons and to provide elderly persons individually and collectively the rights and means to recover from those who engage in financial exploitation.”

· A provision that “unconscionable” behavior “shall be determined by the court.”

· A limitation of punitive damage awards to $1 million while stating that “this section does not prohibit an appropriate court from exercising its discretion in determining the adequacy of an award of punitive damages which is less than three times the amount of compensatory damages.”

· A statement that a lack of knowledge of the elderly person’s age does not constitute a defense and that any waiver by an elderly person of the rights of the bill “is unenforceable and void.”

S.B. 2092 is sponsored by Sen. Alex Villalobos (R-Miami), a lawyer and chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Criminal Justice Committee. Rep. Marco Rubio (R-Miami), another lawyer and the current House majority leader, sponsored H.B. 1287, the House companion bill.

Both bills are linked to H.B. 1289 and S.B. 2090, which would establish a trust fund for the deposit of 50 percent of punitive damages to educate the public about the financial exploitation of the elderly. “In other words, the trust funds are a place to store the loot and fund a massive marketing campaign aimed at drumming up more lawsuits,” added Stander.

“Trial lawyers have actually hurt the elderly in Florida by making nursing home care increasingly unavailable,” said Stander said. “This blatant effort to promote yet more lawsuits is the real exploitation of the elderly – and the Florida court system.”

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