On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that protects businesses and healthcare centers in his state from “frivolous” COVID-19-related lawsuits and safeguards the livelihoods of Floridians.
The bill, SB 72, lays out the guidelines for lawsuits that allege pandemic-related damages and will “deter unfounded lawsuits against individuals, businesses, healthcare providers, and other entities while allowing lawsuits deemed credible to proceed.”
“Today I was pleased to sign SB 72 to protect Florida’s businesses and healthcare providers against frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits,” DeSantis tweeted.
There was a live band playing “With a Little Help from My Friends” in the Cabinet meeting room as the governor signed the bill. Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and several other Republican lawmakers were present for the signing of the legislation.
“This is the most aggressive COVID liability bill in the United States of America,” Sprowls declared. “What this bill does is says, ‘If you’re doing the right thing, you’re protected.'”
Today I was pleased to sign SB 72 to protect Florida’s businesses and health care providers against frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits. pic.twitter.com/7YJ1OevoWW
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 29, 2021
The Republican governor was among the first leaders in the nation to completely open up his state and drop mask mandates during the pandemic. He has left regulatory decisions concerning COVID-19 up to businesses and leaders in Florida.
DeSantis made the point that the bill “protects the livelihoods of Floridians.”
Thank you to President @WiltonSimpson, Speaker @ChrisSprowls and members of the Florida Legislature for answering my call and quickly passing this legislation that protects the livelihoods of Floridians.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 29, 2021
According to the new law, healthcare workers “must be able to remain focused on serving the healthcare needs of their respective communities and not on the potential for unfounded lawsuits.”
The Florida Chamber of Commerce backed the bill which is applicable to businesses and other entities in the state. It denotes that even if certain legal actions “may seem reasonable” during the pandemic, individuals “may attempt to construe these actions differently in hindsight when calm is restored.”
“One of our top priorities since day one of the pandemic, with your signature, [Florida]’s job creators no longer have to fear frivolous lawsuits as we continue relaunching [Flordia]’s economy,” the Florida Chamber of Commerce stated.
The bill stipulates that individuals in the state of Florida cannot sue businesses, health, or government entities if a judge comes to the conclusion that an establishment conducted “a good faith effort to substantially comply with authoritative or controlling government-issued health standards” when the alleged incident occurred.
Anyone who decides to file a lawsuit will have to provide signed affidavits from physicians who can prove a connection between a specific entity and harm caused by the virus. The complainant has one year to file charges and the bill will be applied retroactively to the beginning of the pandemic.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where people are scared of being sued just for doing normal things. I hope that this will provide some certainty for folks,” DeSantis said.
As expected, Democrats opposed the bill. They claim that it will keep people who were harmed by the virus or whose loved ones died from it from being able to seek justice in court. The fact that gross negligence would have to be proven before a case can move forward is apparently considered an unacceptable barrier by the Democrats.
Democrats in the state were infuriated further as DeSantis announced on Monday that businesses don’t have to require their customers to show a vaccine passport to gain entry into their venues. He cited privacy concerns. There will be no vaccine passports in Florida according to DeSantis.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 30, 2021
“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” DeSantis proclaimed at a press conference. He added that such a mandate would have “huge privacy implications.”
President Biden is rumored to be working on a national standardized vaccine passport. New York State became the first in the nation last week to issue vaccine passports to those testing negative or who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“There’s currently an interagency process that is looking at many of the questions around vaccine verification,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted in response to a question about the vaccine passports. She claims that implementation of the documentation “will be driven by the private sector” and that the White House will focus primarily on “guidelines.”
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