TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A legislative push to extend the protection of health care workers another year to avoid COVID-19 liability lawsuits is on its way to Governor Ron DeSantis to sign.
The bill builds on the protection of health care workers and hospitals passed in 2021 to prevent lawsuits for liability related to “injury, injury or death”, according to the law passed last year, Senate Bill 72.
As written and adopted, SB 72 required that plaintiffs who sued in court for damages related to COVID-19 retain the burden of proof and set a time limit for when health care workers or providers could be sued. The current version of liability protection provided healthcare providers, companies and other workers until March 29, 2022 for protection against civil liability litigation.
As enacted and added to the state statutes, SB 72 defined a health provider as any provider included in the state definitions for health administration sets and Florida Statute p.408,803, as well as those who provide services in a clinical laboratory, federally qualified health centers, approved health professionals and those who work in pharmacies and continuing care facilities or provide clinical and non-clinical inpatient and outpatient services. This included home helpers, as well as those working in COVID-19 specific health services.
By law, defendants were only required to prove that they made a “good faith effort to substantially comply” with state health standards or guidance when a death, injury, or injury occurred. Should a defendant prove that they made an effort, the law gives them immunity from civil liability on the specified dates.
While an act of good faith confers immunity, the law also requires plaintiffs to provide “clear and convincing evidence” of “at least gross negligence” in order to proceed with their COVID-19-related claims. If a plaintiff can not, the defendant is still protected from liability.
The new bill, Senate Bill 7014would extend these protections by a further 14 months until June 1, 2023, if DeSantis were to sign it into law or not take action against it, as it has been enrolled after passing on party political lines in both chambers of law.
If it is signed, it will take effect immediately after it becomes law.