The Senate Rules Committee moved a bill that would extend COVID-19 liability protections for hospitals, physicians, nursing homes and assisted living facilities through June 1, 2023.
The bill (SB 7014) has not been referred to any other Senate committees. The House will consider HHS 1, its version of the proposal, in the House Health & Human Services Committee on Friday. The House and Senate bills are identical.
“The two chambers are working great together,” said Senate bill sponsor Sen. Danny Burgess.
The current law that shields businesses and health care providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits was one of the first measures passed by the Legislature during the 2021 Session. While general businesses were provided indefinite immunity liability protections, health care providers were afforded such protection only through March of this year.
Burgess’ bill extends the existing law through June 1, 2023, the same expiration date included in other recently enacted laws relating to COVID-19. That includes one law that bans Florida employers from requiring their staff to get vaccinated without giving employees at least five different avenues to opt out.
The bill is supported by statewide associations representing physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the Florida Chamber, which waived their testimony in support of the bill.
But the committee did hear from people who opposed the extension.
Miami personal injury lawyer Stephen Cain said the lawsuit protections aren’t necessary given the state’s position on other public health issues related to COVID-19. Cain, a partner with Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A., testified on behalf of the Florida Justice Association.
“You are immunizing hospitals and health care providers from mistakes that shouldn’t be made. We don’t need an extension of this,” Cain said. “We had a Special Session. Florida is open for business. Hospitals are open for business; surgeries, elective procedures are all being done. Let’s end the protections. Let’s get back to business as usual.”