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Florida Enacts COVID-19 Business Liability Shield

On March 29, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law SB 72, a bill granting liability protections to businesses against COVID-19-related injury and death lawsuits. Effective immediately, the law applies to various business entities (including corporations, joint ventures, etc.) hospitals, nursing homes, schools, government entities, and churches.

The law creates an extremely high threshold for Plaintiffs to overcome in bringing a successful claim. Defendants are shielded from liability absent a showing of gross negligence. In addition, the law dictates that Plaintiffs who file suit will need to provide a physician’s affidavit of merit. This affidavit requires physicians to essentially “vouch” for a Plaintiff’s injury claim and its connection to the Defendant’s acts or omissions. The new law also places the burden of proof on Plaintiffs to establish that the Defendant did not make a “good faith effort” to comply with public health standards and/or guidance. If a court determines that the Defendant made a “good faith effort” to comply (including substantially complying with any one of the standards and/or guidance applicable if multiple sources were controlling at the time), then the Defendant is immune from civil liability.

The law applies retroactively, creating a one-year statute of limitations for all claims.

Back in November, we reported on a number of states that had passed, or were considering passing, legislation aimed at limiting COVID-19 liability for employers. Florida joins a multitude of states, including Ohio, Georgia, and Wisconsin, that have passed COVID-19 indemnity laws and is now the most populous state to implement such strong business protection rules in response to the pandemic.

© 2023 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 89

About this Author

Kate L. Pamperin Labor Lawyer Foley and Lardner

Kate Pamperin is an associate with Foley & Lardner LLP based in the Miami office where she is a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice.

Kate began with Foley as a summer associate where she conducted legal research, wrote memos and assisted on diverse projects primarily with the Labor & Employment Practice.

Prior to joining Foley, Kate was a law clerk with the general counsel of the Broward County Schools. She drafted dispositive motions, prepared affidavits and assisted with depositions.

Brooke C. Bahlinger Foley Gardere

Brooke C. Bahlinger is an associate and litigation lawyer with Foley Gardere in Dallas.

While she was a student at Louisiana State University, Brooke was a research assistant. She assisted with research in employment and labor law, specifically CLE papers, law review comments, and course book submissions.

Brooke worked as an assistant for a law firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she researched and analyzed case law and statutes to draft legal memorandums on topics such as employment law, bankruptcy, obligations, and civil procedure.