Victims' Rights Hot Topic at Legislative Session

By  | 

Cathy Hilton was strangled by a man who stole her car in a parking garage at a Miami shopping mall. Under legislation being considered at the Capitol, her family might not be able to sue the parking garage’s owners if there was inadequate security.

Jeff Dion of the National Center for Victims of Crime says that’s wrong. He flew in from Washington, D.C. to testify against the bill, saying it could let negligent businesses off the hook.

Jeff Dion says, "In these cases, they’re only holding businesses accountable for the crime that they know about when they know that there’s a problem with crime, and they knowingly refuse to take those common sense measures that would keep people safe."

This happens to be National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and the Capitol is filled with pictures of victims, but supporters of the legislation say businesses can be victimized too, by greedy lawyers.

Rep. David Simmons’ bill is part of larger efforts to reduce frivolous lawsuits in Florida.

Rep. David Simmons, (R) Altamonte Springs, says, "There are many kinds of crimes that are unforeseeable to a business owner, and he or she should not be responsible for it."

After a ceremony honoring victims, Attorney Gen. Charlie Crist wouldn’t speak for or against the bill because he didn’t have the details.

Charlie Crist says, "But I can tell you this without hesitation: we’ve got to do everything we can to make sure victims have their rights recognized, that we support them in any way possible."

That support may soon be harder for some victims to get in Florida’s civil courts.

One of the bills to protect business owners from lawsuits passed its first House committee last week, and is up in a second committee Wednesday. If it passes, it would still have a final committee to clear before going before the full House for a vote.