Nursing homes and hospitals are one step closer to getting COVID-19 liability protections extended.
The House on Wednesday agreed to consider the Senate’s version of the bill (SB 7014) and roll it over for a final vote Thursday.
The bill extends the current liability protections for health care providers through June 2023. The current protections, passed by Lawmakers during the 2021 Session, expire March 29, 2022.
“I think you will all agree with me. A year ago when we passed the legislation, we were hopeful that the pandemic and COVID liability would not be part of our daily conversation today,” said Rep. Colleen Burton.
Rep. Steven Geller asked Burton whether there would be a “rush of claims that would come if we failed to extend this deadline.”
Burton could not answer Geller’s question directly, saying she did not have any data on claims that had been filed or on potential impending claims. “Having said that, we are still dealing with the COVID-19 virus in all our communities across the state of Florida. Therefore, that is good reason to extend the liabilities.”
To successfully sue a provider for COVID-19 under the current law, a plaintiff must prove by the greater weight of the evidence that the health care provider was grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct. The current law also provides health care providers an affirmative defense that a plaintiff would have to overcome.
Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani tried to ask Burton whether the bill could offer protections that are too broad. Eskamani used the example of a doctor’s office that is short staffed. “Is that an issue with your bill? That COVID protections could stretch out?”
House Speaker Chris Sprowls intervened, saying the question was outside the scope of the bill which addressed the extension of the underlying protections.
“If you have a question about the extension of the deadline, we’d be happy to entertain that question,” Sprowls told Eskamani.
Undeterred, Eskamani tried again.
“Does the extension open up risk that there might be non-COVID related issues that could count under a COVID protection?”
Sprowls again intervened.
“Valiant effort, I’m not sure we got there though,” he said.
The House is slated to take a final vote on the bill when it reconvenes Thursday.