The Florida House of Representative has sent Governor Ron DeSantis a bill that would shield Florida businesses from lawsuits claiming COVID-19 injuries or damages. Based on a legislative finding that a “strong and vibrant economy” is essential to ensuring Floridians can continue to work, the bill seeks to set heightened pleading requirements, provide immunity for businesses who took good faith preventive efforts, and place a one-year statute of limitations on these lawsuits. Governor DeSantis is widely expected to sign the bill into law.
The bill requires a complaint that asserts a COVID-19 claim for damages, injury, or death to be pled with particularity and include an affidavit signed by an active physician, attesting that, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the alleged injuries or damages were the result of the defendant’s actions or omissions. Should the plaintiff fail to comply with either requirement, the court must dismiss the lawsuit.
In addition, the bill requires the court to determine whether the defendant made a good faith effort to comply with government-issued health standards or guidelines. The plaintiff would bear the burden of demonstrating the defendant lacked good faith efforts. A defendant found to have made such good faith efforts would be immune from civil liability. However, even if a defendant lacked such efforts, the plaintiff would still be required to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant acted with gross negligence.
Finally, the bill contains a one-year statute of limitations for COVID-19 related lawsuits, and it would apply retroactively. Thus, for causes of action that accrued before the bill becomes law, the statute of limitations would begin to run on the law’s effective date.
As drafted, the bill provides legal protections for a broad range of individuals and entities, including businesses, charities, and educational and religious institutions. The bill does not apply to health care providers, which will be addressed in separate legislation.
CSK has developed a COVID-19 defense team to assist clients in addressing issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The attorneys at CSK are available around the clock to address and provide advice on these issues. For more information, please contact any of our offices throughout the State of Florida.
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