HB 519 (Grant, J.) opens the door for an explosion of potential lawsuits against cities by making one-sided changes to the Bert J. Harris Act and leaves taxpayers to pay the price. The Harris Act gives landowners a way to seek compensation when a local government takes action that impacts the use/potential use of their property. The Harris Act is detailed and fair. It allows local governments to negotiate with property owners who are filing a claim and calls on courts to consider the unique conditions of each claim.
HB 519 requires any settlement reached on a Bert Harris claim be automatically applied by the government entity to all similarly situated residential properties that are subject to the same rules or regulations. In essence, this provision would undo legislative action a government entity undertakes by requiring a settlement on one case to be applied across the board, turning Harris Act settlements into quasi class-action lawsuits. The bill does not define what a similarly situated property is, which opens the door for more litigation. The bill significantly amends the attorney fee provisions of the Harris Act, allowing only property owners to recover costs if they prevail. Additionally, HB 519 would now include business losses as part of a Bert Harris claim. The Florida League of Cities opposes making one-sided changes to the Harris Act that only benefit attorneys and leaves taxpayers footing the bill. (Cruz)