Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Legislature’s Republican leadership have identified providing COVID-19 liability protections for businesses as an urgent priority.
To fast-track pandemic protections for Florida businesses, nonprofits, schools and religious institutions from “frivolous” COVID-19 lawsuits, companion House-Senate measures excluded health care providers.
The House version, House Bill 7, filed by Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Dover, was approved Feb. 3 in an 11-6 vote by the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee.
HB 7 awaits a final hearing in the Judiciary Committee and is likely to be ready for adoption on the House floor when the 60-day 2021 legislative session begins March 2.
Its Senate companion, Senate Bill 72, filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, advanced Jan. 25 in a 7-4 vote through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
SB 72 must pass through hearings in the Senate Commerce & Tourism and Rules committees before advancing to the Senate floor.
Missing from the effort were protections for health care providers to be addressed in a separate bill.
On Feb. 2, DeSantis expressed eagerness to see a bill offering liability protections for health care providers, particularly long-term care centers and nursing homes reluctant to allow visitors without them.
“I don’t want them to say we can’t do all this stuff because we’re scared of getting sued,” DeSantis said. “We need to give them every protection to return to normal. That would be really, really good.”
On Feb. 3, Brandes filed SB 74, which extends protections to health care providers that “substantially” follow government-issued standards and guidance. Plaintiffs must prove a provider acted with “gross negligence or intentional misconduct” to be liable under the bill.
SB 74 would allow plaintiffs one year to bring a COVID-19-related claims after a death, hospitalization or diagnosis. The protections are effective until...