Florida Chamber campaign pushes for COVID-19 liability protections

Infected blood samples in tubes COVID 19 and judge's gavel. Punishment for the spread of infection
The Chamber is asking Floridians to write their Representatives about the bills.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce on Monday launched a campaign supporting legislation to protect businesses from COVID-19 liability lawsuits.

In a news release, the Florida Chamber said the struggling businesses could be pushed to closure if they’re “forced to defend themselves against a wave of frivolous lawsuits.”

The Chamber campaign asks Floridians to write their lawmakers and ask them to vote for the protections, which are outlined in House and Senate bills filed last week.

The House version, HB 7 by Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, would shield businesses, schools, nonprofits and religious institutions who make a “good-faith effort” to follow government health guidelines. The protections would apply retroactively to a newly filed lawsuit if signed into law.

The Senate bill, SB 72 by Sen. Jeff Brandes, is similar but would require a COVID-19 related lawsuit to accompany a physician’s affidavit that claims the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries or damages.

The webpage for the Chamber campaign displays a form letter filled out with suggested text.

It reads, “I am writing to ask that you support HB 7, related to COVID-19 liability protections. Running a business has been difficult during the pandemic, and one of my top priorities has been trying to keep my employees and customers safe and following the ever-changing safety guidelines.  Even if these lawsuits would be difficult to prove in court, the time and cost associated with defending theses cases is a huge concern. I ask that you support HB 7 so I can keep my doors open and do my part in improving Florida’s economy.”

Visitors are asked to fill in their address and other information so their message may be forwarded to the appropriate lawmaker.

“Florida has the fifth-worst legal climate in America and the last thing we need are a tsunami of frivolous COVID lawsuits as we seek to relaunch Florida’s economy. It’s important to provide Florida businesses, who are doing the right thing by their customers and employees, the assurance that they can continue doing their part to relaunch Florida’s economy without fear of facing frivolous lawsuits,” Florida Chamber president and CEO Mark Wilson said Monday.

“It is encouraging these bills are being considered at the first opportunity in the 2021 Session. We look forward to working with Sen. Brandes, Rep. McClure and legislative leadership to ensure these bills move through the process and ultimately to Governor DeSantis’ desk in the strongest form possible.”

The Chamber noted that the current bills do not include protections for health care providers and said it would like the legislation that makes through the Legislature to “include all frontline employers and workers in the healthcare community to ensure they can continue saving lives without fear of facing a lawsuit.”

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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