Legislative efforts to limit the legal rights of people who feel they have contracted COVID-19 as a result of negligent businesses have been a recurring topic among business lobbyists since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. The Florida Legislature is expected to consider a COVID-19 liability bill in March when the 2021 legislative session reconvenes.
While proponents of the bill claim that it would merely shield Florida businesses from “frivolous” lawsuits related to the pandemic, in reality, the proposed legislation would completely change how a victim of negligence could bring a COVID-19 related lawsuit. The proposed legislation would create an entirely distinct process with burdens unlike those placed on plaintiffs seeking redress for any other form of injury. The proposed legislation even goes so far as to take certain factual questions out of the hands of the jury. If passed, the legislation could face legal challenges on grounds of unconstitutionality.
The proposals aim to protect businesses, schools, nonprofits, and religious institutions if a court finds they made a good-faith effort to follow virus protections and government health guidelines. Businesses would be immune from liability if a judge decides the business substantially complied with government standards or guidance.
Florida joins 21 other states across the country in proposing liability legislation after national protections failed last year. Legislators of 16 states have created special protections from COVID-19 related lawsuits.
Companion measures have cleared initial hearings and committees in the Florida Senate and House. Republicans hold the governor’s office and enough seats in both the House and Senate to advance the legislation, leading experts to predict that the proposed legislation will pass.
Potential For Healthcare Providers COVID-19 Liability Protections
To fast-track the business protections, healthcare provider protections were excluded. However, Governor DeSantis has expressed interest in seeing a bill that would protect healthcare providers, especially long-term care centers and nursing homes.
Healthcare provider protections are included in Senate Bill 72, which was presented in late January. This bill would extend protections to healthcare providers that follow government-issued standards and guidance. For a provider to be held liable under the bill, plaintiffs would need to prove a provider acted with “gross negligence or intentional misconduct.”
SB 72 would require plaintiffs to bring a COVID-19-related claim within one year of the date the claim accrued. Protections would expire one year after public health emergency declarations end.
Please check back with us for updates on these bills.
At Panter, Panter & Sampedro we pride ourselves on protecting Florida’s families during times of need. If you have questions about liability or feel you have been injured due to another’s negligent actions, please give us a call at (305) 662-6178 to schedule a free consultation.
Haughey (2021, February 4). Florida healthcare liability bill emerges as business protection package advances. Retrieved from: https://www.thecentersquare.com/florida/florida-healthcare-liability-bill-emerges-as-business-protection-package-advances/article_51f8b676-670c-11eb-b325-d3d4453a4f8a.html
Saunders (2021, February 3). Florida businesses inch closer to COVID-19 liability protection as bill advances. Retrieved from: https://www.wptv.com/news/state/florida-businesses-inch-closer-to-covid-19-liability-protection-as-bill-advances
Haughey (2021, January 25). COVID-19-liability bill in Florida may be ready for quick adoption in March. Retrieved from: https://www.thecentersquare.com/florida/covid-19-liability-bill-in-florida-may-be-ready-for-quick-adoption-in-march/article_ec0daef6-5f5f-11eb-8355-7be1b15557a8.html