Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis continued his Rally at the Restaurant tour on Thursday with stops in Tampa and Jacksonville.
Joined by state leaders, lawmakers and business owners, Patronis reiterated the need to protect Florida businesses from predatory lawsuits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must allow business owners who follow the proper health and safety guidelines to be protected from frivolous lawsuits and sue-and-settle tactics that will stifle our state’s recovery,” Patronis said in Jacksonville.
Thus far, Patronis has traveled to various cities including Orlando, Tallahassee and Gainesville. Along the way, several lawmakers have voiced their intent to push the protections during the 2021 Legislative Session.
President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean described the legislation as “critical” alongside the CFO in Jacksonville.
“Across Florida, we have seen the impact the pandemic has had on our businesses and the difficult decisions small business owners have had to make to remain open,” Bean said. “As our state and businesses continue to recover, we must have liability shields for businesses who are looking to do the right thing”
While Patronis has expressed optimism about the liability protections, he’s stressed the legislation should center on three guiding principles.
The principles suggest protections should be uniform across all business sectors. They also urge lawmakers to prevent the pandemic from becoming a “lucrative business opportunity.”
“If the Florida Legislature is to take steps to protect businesses from legal liabilities, there should be an expectation that business owners have taken reasonable steps to ensure they’re watching out for the health and safety of their employees and customers,” the guiding principles contend.
Thus far, 21 other states have enacted some sort of liability shields for businesses.
Patronis said the protections are needed to help Florida’s economy rebound.
“No doubt, unless we take action to protect our small businesses, we’ll see big problems,” he said. “Businesses will close, insurance rates will continue to grow, and critical services will get squeezed.”
The 2021 Legislative Session begins March 2.