Q&A – What Does Florida’s New COVID-19 Liability Law Do?


Today’s entry: Every story I hear talking about the new liability law says it protects businesses from lawsuits if a customer potentially gets the virus at a business. What I haven’t heard is what the standard is. The federal, state and local governments all have different recommendations.

Bottom Line: On Monday, Governor DeSantis signed the first law of Florida’s 2021 state session and it was the one providing liability protections for responsible businesses and organizations during the pandemic. To your point, if you own a business, it’s helpful knowing what’s in it. Likewise, if you found you contracted the virus while at a business, it’s good to know what your recourse you may have available to you.

The law was the Senate sponsored bill entitled, Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19. Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19; specifying requirements for civil actions based on COVID-19-related claims; requiring the court to make certain determinations in such actions; providing that plaintiffs have the burden of proof in such actions; providing preliminary procedures for civil actions based on COVID-19-related claims; requiring COVID-19-related claims to commence within specified timeframes, etc.

Everything cited in the summary was addressed in the legislation. As it pertains to businesses and individuals alike. The key statement is that the burden of proof is on a plaintiff. The specific legal language used was, there would have to be clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence.

The answer to your question is within that language. In the context of the pandemic, a business or organization would have to be evidenced to deliberately be disregarding official guidance which puts consumers or employees at risk. Additionally, to seek damages, you’d have to prove that the virus was contracted at the business or organization due to their gross negligence. In other words, the threshold is as high as it gets legally. The distinction of gross negligence, as opposed to just negligence, takes all of the subjectivity about contradictory government recommendations off the table. If a business or organization were to adhere to official guidance by the local, state or federal guidance that’d certainly not be gross negligence. An example of gross negligence might be a restaurant that advertises no masks, no social distancing and no limits on capacity.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.

Email:brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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