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.