Ron DeSantis signs bill protecting Florida businesses, health care centers from 'frivolous COVID-19' lawsuits


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that aims to protect Florida businesses and health care centers from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

SB 72 specifies requirements for lawsuits alleging virus-related damages and will “deter unfounded lawsuits against individuals, businesses, health care 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 health care providers against frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits,” the Republican governor, who was one of the first state leaders to completely open his state amid the pandemic, leaving regulatory decisions up to local leaders and individual entities, tweeted Monday. 

He added that the legislation “protects the livelihoods of Floridians.”

The law notes that health care workers “must be able to remain focused on serving the health care needs of their respective communities and not on the potential for unfounded lawsuits.”

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Similar language in the bill, backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, applies to businesses and other entities. The legislation adds that while certain legal actions “may seem reasonable” amid COVID-19, people “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 state’s Chamber of Commerce tweeted Monday.

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Under SB 72, Floridians cannot bring lawsuits against business, health or government entities if a judge determines that the establishment conducted “a good faith effort to substantially comply with authoritative or controlling government-issued health standards” at the time of an alleged incident.

A family walks past Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

A family walks past Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

Those filing lawsuits will also need to present signed affidavits from doctors directly linking COVID-19-related harm to specific entities. Complaints must be filed within a year of the incident occurring. 

Democrats opposed the measures, saying it will deny access to the courts for people who were damaged by the disease or whose relatives died from the coronavirus. They said the language in the bill and need to prove gross negligence will make it difficult to bring a case forward.

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Desantis also announced Monday that businesses are not required to make customers present COVID-19 vaccine passports upon entry or before receiving certain services, citing privacy concerns.

“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 said during a Monday press conference, adding that such a measure would have “huge privacy implications.”

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President Biden’s administration is reportedly working on a way to standardize a process for allowing Americans to prove their vaccination status. New York State has already rolled out their own version of vaccine credentials.

“There’s currently an interagency process that is looking at many of the questions around vaccine verification,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday in response to a question about the passports, adding that the possibility of vaccine verification “will be driven by the private sector” while the White House will focus more on “guidelines.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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