Recently Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 837 (ch. 2023-15, L.O.F.), a tort reform bill aimed at “properly and fairly redressing the civil wrongs caused throughout the state, whether such wrongs be in the form of tortious conduct, breaches of contract, or other non-criminal harm for which the law provides a remedy.” The bill became effective on March 24, 2023, and impacts many private business entities, including apartment and multi-family housing property owners.

This legislation encompasses reforms in premises liability, which are expected to decrease the frequency of lawsuits filed against property owners. The bill also introduces changes such as reducing the statute of limitations for general negligence cases from four to two years and establishing consistent guidelines for juries when assessing medical damages. Another significant aspect of the bill is that any party involved in a negligence lawsuit determined to be more than 50% responsible for their own harm is ineligible to seek compensation for damages. 

Summary of HB 837

The bill makes several significant changes to Florida’s civil justice system. The new law:

  • Modifies Florida’s “bad faith” framework to:
    • Allow an insurer to avoid third-party bad faith liability if the insurer tenders the policy limits or the amount demanded by the claimant within 90 days after receiving actual notice of the claim.
    • Clarify that mere negligence alone is not enough to demonstrate bad faith.
    • Require an insured and a claimant to act in good faith with respect to furnishing information, making demands, setting deadlines, and attempting to settle the claim.
    • Allow an insurer, when there are multiple claimants in a single action, to limit the insurer’s bad faith liability by paying the total amount of the policy limits at the outset.
  • Provides that a contingency fee multiplier for an attorney fee award is appropriate only in rare and exceptional circumstances, essentially adopting the federal standard.
  • Repeals Florida’s one-way attorney fee statutes, except that the one-way attorney fee structure still applies in specific actions:
    • For declaratory relief to determine insurance coverage after an insurer has made a total coverage denial of a claim.
    • Involving bonds for construction contracts.
  • Changes Florida’s comparative negligence system from a “pure” comparative negligence system to a “modified” system, except for medical negligence cases, so that a plaintiff who is more than fifty percent at fault for their own injuries generally may not recover any damages.
  • Provides uniform standards to assist juries in calculating the accurate value of medical damages in personal injury or wrongful death actions.
  • Clarifies that the offer of judgment statute applies in any civil action involving an insurance contract.
  • Requires the trier of fact in certain negligent security actions to consider the fault of all persons who contributed to the injury and establishes a presumption against liability in certain situations.
  • Reduces the statute of limitations for general negligence cases from 4 years to 2 years, with this change applying to causes of action accruing after the bill’s effective date.
  • Clarifies that certain actions involving a service member are subject to a stay of proceedings.

The bill also provides that it may not be construed to impair any right under an insurance contract in effect on or before the bill’s effective date and that it applies to causes of action filed after the bill’s effective date, except as provided within.

Impact on Apartment and Multi-Family Property Owners

Specific to apartment and multi-family property owners, the bill provides that reasonable deterrents, precautions, and protections offered by the property owner may limit their liability if completed before a negligence claim. Examples of the safety measures that must be implemented on the property include:

  • A security camera system at points of entry and exit, which records and maintains as retrievable for at least 30 days, video footage to assist in offender identification and apprehension.
  • A lighted parking lot illuminated at an intensity of at least an average of 1.8 foot-candles per square foot at 18 inches above the surface from dusk until dawn or controlled by photocell or any similar electronic device that provides light from dusk until dawn.
  • Lighting in walkways, laundry rooms, common areas, and porches, which lighting must be illuminated from dusk until dawn or controlled by photocell or any similar electronic device that provides light from dusk until dawn.
  • At least a one-inch deadbolt in each dwelling unit door.
  • A locking device on each window, exterior sliding door, and door not used for community purposes.
  • Locked gates with key or fob access along pool fence areas.
  • A peephole or door viewer on each dwelling unit door that does not include a window or have a window next to the door.
  • A crime prevention through environmental design assessment, completed by January 1, 2025, and performed by a law enforcement agency or a designated FCPTED Practitioner, where the owner or operator remains in substantial compliance with the assessment.
  • The provision of proper crime deterrence and safety training to current employees by January 1, 2025, and to an employee hired after that date within 60 days of his or her hire.

In summary, the bill may reduce the financial liability of a property owner because a multi-family residential property owner or operator will gain a presumption against negligent security liability by substantially complying with the safety and security measures set out in the bill. It also requires the Court to consider the fault of all persons who contributed to the injury and establishes a presumption against liability in certain situations.

Property owners should discuss these issues and prepare now with their property managers. Implementing these measures may allow a property owner to take advantage of the presumption against liability outlined in F.S. 768.0706(2) and reduce the risk of being held responsible for criminal acts committed by third parties on your property.

If you have any questions regarding HB 837 or are interested in receiving more insight on how the bill may impact your business or industry, please contact the authors or a member of Gunster’s Government Affairs practice team.


This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

About Gunster
Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 13 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Naples, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa Bayshore, Tampa Downtown, Vero Beach, and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With more than 260 attorneys and consultants, and over 270 committed professional staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 500 largest law firms and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Diverse Law Firms by Law360. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at


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