On 3/29, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 72 into law. This bill creates a new framework for any suit claiming damages related to Covid-19 against a business or a healthcare provider. Damages here does not just mean medical bills or anything else relating only to having caught Covid-19. It means that any injury, if it relates back to the coronavirus, will be tried under these new rules.
If the suit is against a business or individual, the plaintiff must show first that the business did not act in good faith in taking Covid-related precautions based upon government-issued rules and advice at the time that the damages occurred. The court will need to hold a special hearing just for this issue. If the court finds good faith, then the business will be immune from suit. However, the burden of proof, or the responsibility to show that the business did not act in good faith, will be on the plaintiff. This means that the plaintiff will have to prove the negative – that the business did not act in good faith. If the plaintiff can pass that hurdle, they will then need to show that the business acted with gross negligence in order to recover. This will make it even harder for plaintiffs. These two additions will most likely act as a total liability shield for anyone sued because of Covid-19.
For healthcare providers, there is an additional protection put in place to protect against medical malpractice claims. A claim based upon contracting the coronavirus or a claim made based upon services cancelled due to the coronavirus also face a higher bar. First, the plaintiff must show that the healthcare provider was grossly negligent, and second, the healthcare provider can argue as an affirmative defense that they acted in substantial compliance with government regulations and health standards.
We continue to monitor the legal landscape for our clients. If you have questions about these developments or how Covid-19 continues to affect your business, please reach out to Justin or Matt at 407-504-9725.