Florida lawmakers file bill to provide COVID-19 liability protections


(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – Florida businesses could be shielded from frivolous COVID lawsuits under legislation unveiled by both chambers of the legislature.

Florida Republicans say businesses in the state that have been operating through the pandemic deserve special protections, to prevent a second economic hit from lawsuits blaming businesses for COVID infections.

“If they’re following the guidelines they’re going to have a safe harbor from liability going forward,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes.

Senator Brandes is sponsoring the legislation.

Business would have to be shown with clear and convincing evidence they were the cause and acted with gross negligence.

“And that would extend to virtually any business in the state,” said Brandes.

Healthcare providers are excluded from the legislation, but Brandes said they’ll get their own bill protecting them from other suits they may face.

“Elective surgeries being canceled at scale, that was clearly something. The inability to get in and see your doctor because the doctor’s office wasn’t open,” said Brandes.

Florida Democrats have questioned the need for liability protections, arguing businesses would rather lawmakers pass additional relief.

“To help them with commercial rent payments. To help them have the resources that they need to be able to hold on to their employees,” said State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith.

But Brandes said there are a multitude of business and health care groups who have pleaded for the legislation.

“Point me to a business that’s saying, ‘please don’t provide us COVID protections. Please lower the standard and allow people to sue us easier’,” said Brandes.

The Florida Chamber, the Associated Industries of Florida and the National Federation of Independent Businesses have all thrown their support behind liability protections. 

As have the Florida Health Care Association and the Florida Hospital Association.

Florida TaxWatch, the state’s top fiscal watchdog will announce the findings of two reports Monday, giving an overview of the potential economic impacts to Florida businesses if liability protections are not passed.


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