TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida businesses would be protected from coronavirus lawsuits if they made an effort to follow guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 under a bill passed by the House.
The 83-31 vote on Friday divided Republicans in support of the legislation and Democrats who opposed it. Republicans said businesses are suffering because of the pandemic and shouldn’t have to worry about frivolous lawsuits.
“It may be 50 lawsuits now, but if we don’t do this it’ll be 50,000 lawsuits soon,” said Rep. Bob Rommel.
Democrats said people shouldn’t lose access to courts if a business failed to protect employees or customers.
The bill says a business would have to be “grossly negligent” in order for a lawsuit to succeed. It also requires a doctor to affirm a person contracted COVID at a specified business for a lawsuit to go forward.
The House also passed a bill that would make it a felony to profit off a pandemic by making false or misleading marketing claims about personal protective equipment or the availability or access to vaccines.
Both bills are the first of the 2021 legislative session to have been cleared from the House Chamber.