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Florida is Backing COVID Business "Immunity" Bills

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Florida is Backing COVID Business "Immunity" Bills

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Florida is the most recent of several states to consider passing legislation which would protect businesses from COVID-exposure lawsuits.

The two bills in question (HB 7 and SB 72), revolve around the idea of “good faith virus prevention efforts”. This means that immunity may be applicable for a business facing legal ramifications of a customer’s contraction of the virus if it can be proven that the business took reasonable steps to prevent spread of the virus.

These bills would not nullify COVID lawsuits against Florida businesses.

It’s important to note that the word “immunity” should be applied rather loosely to this and similar COVID-liability bills across the country. In Florida, as in many other states, the proposed legislation would not prohibit an ill customer or employee from filing against a potentially negligent business. Instead, it is intended to guide what health and safety standards must be proven in court for a business to not be considered liable at the conclusion of the lawsuit. The Daytona Regional Chamber has recommended that businesses closely adhere to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Health Department guidelines regarding COVID safety procedures to avoid increasing their liability.

Critics of these bills fear the new legislation will de-incentivize Florida businesses to operate safely.

While the bills in question are designed to prevent the ramifications of this exact concern from occurring, some Floridians remain concerned that any kind of immunity for businesses de-prioritizes customer health and safety. Critics point out that businesses who follow proper COVID safety protocol will likely have nothing to fear, and that attorneys do not accept frivolous lawsuits to begin with. Some worry that this bill and the others like it will reduce accountability on the part of small businesses to care for customer safety.

While COVID liability lawsuits have not become commonplace, the fear of them is.

A proponent of the bill, state representative Lawrence McClure, admitted that although COVID liability lawsuits filed against businesses are not extremely common as of yet, the fear of frivolous litigation in this area is significant. According to McClure, this bill is intended to reassure business owners that if they follow proper, reasonable safety procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to customers and employees, they will not need to fear unwarranted litigation. It should also be noted that these bills do not include protections for medical facilities or nursing homes, despite efforts from these parties to seek similar lawsuit protections.

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