With just one Democrat in favor and one Republican against, the Florida Senate has reportedly passed along party lines a bill (S.B. 142) that would overturn a 2001 state supreme court ruling that adopted the “crashworthiness doctrine” and imposed liability on a car maker for a design defect that enhanced, rather than caused, injury.
The bill would allow juries to hear about the underlying causes of an accident and would also provide that fault be apportioned among all responsible parties. A similar bill is now before a Florida House committee.
Sponsored by State Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples), the bill would overturn D’Amario v. Ford Motor Co., in which the Florida Supreme Court vacated a jury’s defense verdict exonerating a car manufacturer from liability for a passenger’s severe injuries in a car crash allegedly involving a drunk driver. The high court ruled that a jury should not consider or be told about the underlying cause of accidents, such as negligent driving or driver intoxication, but should determine whether a vehicle defect caused “enhanced injuries.”
Richter told a news source that the bill will allow juries to hear all of the facts leading to an accident. “I believe Lady Justice is blind, but she’s not deaf,” he said. State Senator Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) was quoted as saying that tort reform was a priority of the state’s General Government Appropriations Committee, which he chairs. “It’s part of the picture when trying to create an avenue of economic recovery and allow businesses to operate without governmental constraints,” he said about the bill. See Product Liability Law 360, March16, 2011; DailyCommercial.com, March 27, 2011.