The House Health & Human Services Committee unveiled a proposed committee bill on Friday that would provide COVID-19 liability protections to health care entities.
The bill extends legal protections to hospitals, assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, mental health facilities, and health care practitioners.
“Today we took the first step in protecting those health professionals who put their lives at risk each day to help their patients and residents,” said House Health & Human Services Committee Chair Colleen Burton. “We expect them to make judgments in a moment based on their training and experience to make the best decisions. They should not be overburdened by the threat of legal action if they are following public health guidance.”
The PCB would categorize patient legal claims into five categories: COVID-19 contraction, surgery delay or omission due to the pandemic, new or experimental therapies and injuries from preexisting conditions exacerbated by COVID-19.
The proposal would also raise the liability standard from negligence to gross negligence and require courts to consider the pandemic when assessing the standard of care.
The bill has early support from House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
“In the fight against COVID-19, Florida’s front-line health care providers have been working around the clock to care for their patients and residents during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” Sprowls said. “Our health care providers should be concerned with patients’ health not unnecessary legal defense when they’re doing the right things to protect themselves, the people under their care, and the visitors to their facilities.”
The PCB is follow-up legislation to HB 7.
HB 7 shields Florida businesses, nonprofits, schools and religious institutions from frivolous COVID-19 related lawsuits. It does include health care protections.
“Separate bills were necessary because of the different standards and different circumstances in the health care arena than with more general businesses,” the news release said.
Under both proposals, a plaintiff must file a civil action within one year after any incident.
The Senate, meanwhile, is also weighing similar legislation.
SB 74, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, also seeks to extend protections to health care providers.