Florida Reveals Its New Plan to Insulate Businesses from COVID-19 Liability
There are a few things to sort out before delving into the meat and bones of the new legislation. Firstly, it has always been nearly impossible to sue a proprietor for the contracting a disease; you simply can’t prove where it came from. It is much easier to sue your employer because you’re there nine hours a day, and the majority of lawsuits that have been filed against companies related to the coronavirus are employee/employer lawsuits.
The proposed legislation would provide immunity to any business that has “substantially complied” with health guidelines. The measure passed 11-6 with Republicans heavily in favor of protecting businesses from lawsuits, while Democrats uniformly opposed the measure. To date, fewer than ten COVID lawsuits have been filed against Florida businesses.
What’s the Problem?
As usual, the whole thing is muddled in double-speak and at best, it’s unclear what has changed. However, there are two industries that were hit the hardest by coronavirus lawsuits, and they are likely to be the ones that benefit the most—not small businesses and mom and pop corner stores against whom it would be impossible to file such a lawsuit. Nonetheless, the legislation has been heralded as a major breakthrough for small businesses even though the majority of coronavirus lawsuits have been filed against the cruise line industry, which records multi-billion dollar profits each year, and the nursing home industry.
Nursing Homes Not Included
Of the two industries most heavily impacted by coronavirus lawsuits, the most concerning is the nursing home industry. With so many of our deceased coming from nursing homes, it’s hard to imagine removing any accountability. While nursing homes and health care facilities were not included in the most recent legislation, it is likely that another bill will be passed providing immunity for nursing homes.
Proponents of the legislation say that it won’t protect “bad actors” from civil lawsuits, but the legislation does not require businesses to be in complete compliance with health code recommendations. It requires them to be in “substantial” compliance.
What does that really mean? Essentially, those who are filing lawsuits against nursing homes would need to prove “gross negligence” as opposed to “simple negligence”. The gross negligence standard is much higher than the simple negligence standard. You would essentially have to prove deliberate malice or a reckless indifference to human life. It’s unclear how that would play out in a nursing home neglect lawsuit.
Good Faith Efforts
To get immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits, a proprietor or business must show that they made a good-faith effort to substantially comply with government-issued health code recommendations. Detractors of the bill said it will provide blanket immunity to businesses and reduce accountability related to managing the pandemic.
Talk to a Miami Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another individual, company, or government agency, call the Miami personal injury attorneys at the office of Alan Goldfarb, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your options in greater detail.