Weeks after the Delta variant surge raced through the state, and amid expectations of a new variant arriving in the United States, the Florida Senate is working on legislation that would extend COVID-19 liability protections for nursing homes, hospitals and physicians.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has rolled out a one-page proposed committee bill that would shield health care providers, including nursing homes, hospitals and doctors, from lawsuits related to the pandemic until June 1, 2023, or 14 months after the current legal protections are scheduled to expire.
The bill is a tacit acknowledgment that the pandemic remains an ongoing concern even as Florida legislators and Gov. Ron DeSantis have pushed laws and policies designed to keep businesses and local governments from imposing mandates and lockdowns. More than 61,000 Floridians have died due to COVID-19.
The current law that shields businesses and health care providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits was one of the first passed by the Legislature during the 2021 Session. The law makes clear that to successfully sue a health care provider for COVID-19, the plaintiff must prove gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
While general businesses were provided indefinite immunity liability protections, health care providers were afforded such protection only through March 2022. House Speaker Chris Sprowls pushed for the limit on health care-related lawsuits.
The proposed committee bill will be considered Tuesday by the committee led by Sen. Danny Burgess. Burgess has sponsored key COVID-19 legislation, including a bill passed earlier this year banning businesses from enacting so-called “vaccine passports” and the recently-passed bill dealing with vaccine mandates.