By Pat Raia
Legislation that shields business, charities, educational institutions, governmental entities and religious institutions from COVID-19-related claims became law after it was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis during a press conference in Tallahassee on March 29.
Filed by State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), SB 72 requires a court to dismiss without prejudice any lawsuit bringing a COVID-19-related claim if the complaint is not pled with particularity - that is if the complainant has not included specifics and details of the alleged incident not just general statements and that anyone who files a COVID-19-related lawsuit to prove that a health care provider's conduct constituted gross negligence or intentional misconduct. \
It also protects providers when they substantially comply with authoritative or applicable government-issued health standards or guidance related to COVID-19, and if they deny delaying or cancel a medical procedure or surgery due to government-issued health standards or guidance.
Before signing the bill DeSantis said that legislation was crucial to help business operators and others provide goods and services in spite of the pandemic.
“\We're excited to sign the bill,” DeSantis said. “I think it's very common sense, and I hope it provides some certainty for folks.”
Speaker of the House Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) called the measure “the most aggressive in the United States.”
“If you are doing the right thing, you're protected, and you have the most aggressive protection in America,” he said.
Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Spring Hill) said the measure recognizes those who continued to provide goods and services even during lockdowns.
“We had businesses, front line workers in the face of the tragedy… last March, April, May had to go to work everyday,” Simpson said. “Those businesses had to be there every day then, we're here for them today.”
Early on, SB 72 drew criticism from some senior advocacy organizations, but Veronica Catoe chief executive officer (CEO) of the Florida Assisted Living Association said that the new law protects all those who acted in good faith during unprecedented circumstances.
“Our members have risen to all calls of action from federal, state and local authorities and should be protected from -- and not victimized by -- opportunistic lawyers looking to line their pockets through frivolous claims,” Catoe said. “We are grateful to all those who supported this bill.”