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Proposed Florida law could decrease liability for companies

New Florida legislation could make it easier for companies involved in product liability cases to avoid paying large settlements to victims, especially those involved in car accidents.

The bill was created to encourage jurors to consider all factors involved in a car accident instead of immediately placing all the liability on the manufacturer. The bill has already been approved by the Florida Senate.

According to one Florida Senator, this legislation will give jurors the tools that they need to make informed decisions during a liability lawsuit. However, critics of the bill say that it does not hold companies accountable for the quality of their products. Critics are also concerned that this bill will strain the state's Medicaid system because the state will now be responsible for accident-related medical costs.

One Senator who voted against the bill stated that manufacturers should be held accountable for the products they put into society just as citizens are held accountable for their actions.

If this bill is passed, it would overturn a 2001 products liability case that involved the Ford Motor Co. The case involved a Ford vehicle driven by an intoxicated teenager; the teen crashed into a tree and the car burst into flames. The teen was killed in the accident and a passenger suffered severe burns. The survivor's mother sued the Ford stating that automaker had installed a faulty relay switch that caused the fire.

Reversing the decision in the case against Ford will only hurt the victims of the case, since the families will now be responsible for their own medical bills. If a product is defective and life-threatening, shouldn't the product's manufacturer be held accountable?

Product liability cases currently prevent jurors from hearing evidence against the driver who caused the accident. Members of the jury are only provided with information on potential product defects when determining fault in the case.

Source: Naples News online, "Florida Senate limits product liability lawsuits against auto makers, other businesses," Ryan Mills, 16 March 2011

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