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Crist Signs Two Tort Bills

A pair of lawsuit reforms that flew through the Republican Legislature were signed into law without comment Tuesday by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Crist signed a bill that clarifies that parents may sign liability waivers for certain risky activities that could be held to be valid by the courts. Another measure increases the amount local governments can spend to settle negligence claims without the plaintiff having to seek legislative relief.
The governor approved SB 2440, which allows parents to sign liability waivers for inherent risk without losing their right to sue if unforeseen yet preventable events lead to injury. A common example repeatedly used was of an ice skater, whose family could not sue if they broke an arm by falling, because skating is inherently dangerous, but could sue if the child was injured because the ice rink ceiling collapsed because of faulty construction.

The measure came out of a court case that found that parents couldn't waive their child's rights to sue. The business community wanted to restore that right, arguing that businesses where children might conceivably get injured would simply not be able to continue to operate without liability waivers.

The original bill would have reinstated the ability to use waivers absolving businesses from responsibility, but that position was opposed by trial lawyers. The bill with the inherent risk exception represents a compromise between the two groups.

Crist also approved SB 2060, which will authorize local governments to make higher payments in negligence cases before hitting the sovereign immunity cap.

The higher caps will allow local governments to more quickly settle more claims when they are at fault and reduce the demand for claims bills, a political process in which the Legislature must approve any payouts above the sovereign immunity limit.

The bill increases individual caps on sovereign immunity cases from $100,000 to $200,000 and collective caps from $200,000 to $300,000. The caps have not been changed since 1981.
Other bills signed into law by the governor Tuesday were SB 350, which  bolsters sanitation standards for tomato packers and HB 295, which excludes domestic violence centers from the definition of "food service establishment."

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