Trial attorneys back Republican in Florida House Race, insurers favor Democrat
In a twist of fate and a sign of the times, some Florida business groups are backing the Democrat in a race for the State House in the Tampa area, while trial attorneys are putting their weight behind the Republican challenger.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that many members of the plaintiff bar, who have always supported Democratic candidates, are now supporting Republican candidate Danny Alvarez in his bid for House District 69 in southeast Hillsborough County. And incumbent state Rep. Andrew Learned, a Democrat, has won favor with business groups, possibly because of his support for legislation to reduce insurance claims litigation.
Learned, which voted for Senate Bill 76 of 2021 and for SB 2D and SB 4D during this year’s property insurance special session of the Florida Legislature, pointed to significant contributions from companies Insurance, Associated Industries of Florida and Publix Grocery Company, all of which have leaned toward pro-business candidates in the past, the newspaper reported.
Over the past few months, Learned has received contributions from Allstate Insurance Co., Zurich American Insurance, Courtesy Insurance Co., the Florida Justice Reform Committee, and the Florida Agents Committee, according to the site. Florida Department of State Elections Web. It also received in-kind support from the Florida Democratic Party and financial contributions from the Communications Workers of America.
Learned, in the House since 2020, said he somewhat agrees with the insurance industry‘s position that claims litigation is excessive in Florida and has helped drive up the cost of insurance. ‘Home Insurance.
“Last year, I broke with the majority of my party to vote for the Senate Bill 76 reforms,” Learned wrote in a lengthy letter to voters earlier this year, posted on its website.
“I had held my foot on an issue that I felt would disadvantage families who lost roofs in hurricanes – just as mine once did – and I couldn’t afford to replace it,” he added without specifying which amendment to SB 76 he was referring to. “Ultimately, I was able to negotiate that protection into the bill, so I felt comfortable voting for the final product.”
The representative suggested in the letter that insurers are not blameless, some legitimate claims go unpaid, and some policyholders need a good lawyer. He also cited a statistic that shows one-third of lawsuits in Florida were filed by just 25 attorneys.
He claimed that some of those lawyers, as well as roofers, supported his opponent, Alvarez. Alvarez, a Tampa attorney who practices family law, could not be reached for comment by the Times.
The state election site and newspaper reported that Alvarez received contributions from some litigators and the Florida Justice Association, an advocacy group for litigators. He also received in-kind support from the Florida Republican Party and checks from a Tampa surety and surety company.
Learned also said in the letter that “a number of people I have met have indicated that some of the worst offenders (insurers changing policyholders short) were apparently some of the same companies that were going insolvent. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that insurance companies on the verge of bankruptcy are tightening their belts trying to save the business and in the process deceiving some customers out of their claims, knowingly or unknowingly .
Justice Association attorney Clif Curry told The Times that Learned “has repeatedly voted against legislation that would protect consumers and hold businesses accountable” in areas other than insurance, and consistently chooses “protection commercial interests” rather than consumers.
Learned’s campaign leads in funding, with more than $300,000 in cash, compared to about $130,000 for Alvarez, the Times noted.
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