Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis continued his Rally at the Restaurant tour on Tuesday in Pensacola, making it the CFO’s first rally stop of the new year.
Joined by state leaders, lawmakers and business owners at The Fish House restaurant, Patronis reiterated the need to protect Florida businesses from predatory lawsuits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the pandemic began, I’ve spoken to countless business owners and held meetings with Chambers of Commerce statewide and they all share the same open-ended liability fears and concerns,” Patronis said. “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 for months has stressed that COVID-19 liability protections are needed to help Florida’s COVID-19 battered economy recover. To drive the plea home, the former small business owner is visiting restaurants across the state to garner support.
Notably, he has warned that more trouble might rest ahead should Florida businesses forge ahead without protections.
“No doubt, unless we take action to protect our small businesses, we’ll see big problems: businesses will close, insurance rates will continue to grow, and critical services will get squeezed,” Patronis said. “I’m confident that we can pass meaningful liability protections and add Florida to the list of 21 other states that have enacted some sort of liability shields for businesses. We have to support our small businesses, we have to support our employees who want to get back to work, and we have to work together to get Florida’s economy back on its feet.”
Thus far, Patronis has traveled to various cities including Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville and Tampa. Often times, he is accompanied by supportive business, local and state leaders.
Rep. Alex Andrade, a Panhandle Republican, voiced his support Tuesday for Patronis’ push.
“I appreciate CFO Patronis’ commitment to provide common sense business liability protections,” Andrade said. “The pandemic has created a tremendous burden on our small business. Knowing that Florida’s elected officials are concerned and working to address inappropriate liability tactics will go a long way in our state’s economic recovery.”
While Patronis is optimistic about the liability protections, he has stressed that the legislation should center on three guiding principles.
The principles suggest that protections should be uniform across all business sectors. They also urge lawmakers to not allow the pandemic to become 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.