The Florida House of Representatives passed S.B. 72 in a decisive 83-31 vote, a bill that would give businesses and health care providers a legal safe harbor from COVID-19 injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law this afternoon. The law retroactively applies to causes of actions that have accrued but does not apply in a civil action which is commenced before the effective date of the law (March 29).
The new law provides civil immunity to corporations, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and houses of worship. The exception to the law would be a showing of gross negligence or intentional misconduct, both of which are very difficult standards to prove. The bill had its opponents, of course, namely, the plaintiff bar, as it creates significant legal hurdles for plaintiffs who wish to file lawsuits over coronavirus-related injuries.
Further, the law is retroactive and creates a one-year statute of limitations for claims. The measure was advanced by the Florida Senate which combined two bills regarding COVID-19 protections for businesses and health care providers.
Critics of the new law believe it goes too far in protecting business and creates too many hurdles for individuals to pursue a claim. Defendants will only have to show a good faith effort to comply with public health standards.
Governor Ron DeSantis also said he would sign an executive order banning “vaccination passports” in Florida. This would prevent businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, that some states like New York are in favor of.