On March 29, 2021, Florida passed a new law which protects individuals, businesses, educational institutions, government entities, and religious institutions which have made good faith efforts to follow COVID-19 guidelines against COVID-19-related injury and death lawsuits.
Persons who file suit will need to provide a physician’s affidavit of merit which links their injury to the businesses’ acts or omissions with a “reasonable degree of medical certainty” and also prove that the business did not make a good faith effort to comply with established guidelines. Even if plaintiffs are able to meet these requirements, businesses will still be shielded from liability absent a showing of gross negligence which must be shown by clear and convincing evidence in order to prevail.
The new law also contains separate protections for health care providers requiring plaintiffs to prove that the provider was grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct by the greater weight of the evidence. Providers will be able to raise an affirmative defense to such claims if they complied with government-issued health standards specifically related COVID-19.
Notably the law only shields entities from liability for personal injury claims related to COVID-19. It does not shield entities from other claims that may be related to COVID-19 such as allegations of wrongful termination, discrimination, or violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Covered entities should take steps to document their specific and actual compliance with federal, state, and local COVID-19 prevention guidelines in anticipation of challenges to same.
The law applies retroactively for all claims filed after March 29, 2021 and imposes a one-year statute of limitations.