On March 29, 2021, the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, signed into law SB72, “Liability Protections for COVID-19-Related Claims” granting liability protections against COVID-related injury and death claims. This law protects health care providers, businesses, religious organizations, governmental entities, and individuals against civil liability by applying a heightened standard of proof for plaintiffs claiming damages due to COVID-19.
The goal of the legislation is to protect frontline workers and other health professionals and help businesses reopen. Senate President Wilton Simpson stated, “Our hardworking and dedicated health care providers have been on the front lines of this pandemic from day one, putting their own health in jeopardy to help others. Meanwhile, businesses across Florida are doing the best they can to safely reopen and keep people employed during a period of extreme uncertainty. The last thing we want is for businesses and health care providers, who do the right thing, to face a constant threat of frivolous lawsuits that hamper their ability to serve their patients and customers.”
While it may be true that some lawsuits are “frivolous,” I maintain a very high level of integrity in my practice in personal injury law. I feel a duty to help individuals in their pursuit of justice and compensation against large organizations and big businesses and never file frivolous suits. If you believe you have been harmed due to COVID-related negligence, reach out to me. We will discuss the circumstances and determine if arguing based on COVID is the best approach, or if there are other acts of negligence that took place that may be more likely to prevail in court.
Higher Threshold of Evidence
In order to file suit for COVID-related damages, plaintiffs must first file a physician’s affidavit of merit – which is to say that a physician, actively licensed in the state of Florida, must attest that “within a reasonable degree of medical certainty” the plaintiff’s COVID-related injuries were caused by the defendant’s acts or omissions and not by any other possible cause or source of infection.
The court must determine whether or not the defendant made a “good faith effort to substantially comply with authoritative or controlling government-issued health standards or guidance at the time the cause of action accrued…If the court determines that the defendant made such a good faith effort, the defendant is immune from civil liability.” (CS/SB 72)
Further, the plaintiff must prove “by a greater weight of the evidence that the health care provider was grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct.” The bill provides that “absent at least gross negligence proven by clear and convincing evidence, the defendant is not liable for any act or omission relating to a covid-19-related claim.” (CS/SB 72) This bar of “clear and convincing evidence” is higher than the existing requirement to show a “preponderance of the evidence.”
Further, negligence claims usually have a statute of limitations of four (4) years, but under this new law, plaintiffs seeking damages for COVID-related injuries are limited to within one (1) year of the effective date of the act that supposedly caused the injuries.
What You Can Do
Don’t give up hope on receiving fair compensation for your injuries. As an experienced personal injury lawyer with significant success in winning compensation for patients harmed by medical negligence, I understand the importance of thoroughly reviewing a case and pursuing the lines of legal argument that may be most effective in securing damages for my clients. Contact me from anywhere in Florida to discuss your situation. It is my mission to help injured people get the compensation they deserve.