Florida Trial Lawyers Kick John Henry’s Patoot

The Orlando Sentinel offers a post-mortem of the Central Florida commuter train debacle in the Legislature. The state and CSX negotiated a $650 million package of rail improvements, while granting the company liability protection for operations on the proposed line from Volusia to Osceola counties.

Florida’s trial-lawyer association is traditionally opposed to any limits on people’s right to sue. It is a potent interest group in Tallahassee; its political committee contributed more than $3.5 million to state candidates in the past three years. And it has particularly strong support in the Senate.

But though the trial lawyers had said early this year they had a “problem” with the liability language, Central Florida backers didn’t recognize until too late how hard the group was willing to fight.

“No one realized that the trial lawyers had decided to take this on and make it their power play,” said Fred Leonhardt, a lobbyist for Orlando.

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