Several states, including Georgia, have passed laws regarding COVID-19 civil liability in the wake of the public health pandemic that dominated 2020 and continues to rage. Florida has come to the fold, with the introduction of House Bill 7 (HB7) on January 6, 2021.
HB7 would create Florida Statute § 768.38, establishing a civil cause of action for COVID-19 related liability. The bill creates liability protections for businesses, educational institutions, government entities, religious organizations, and other entities, such that a covered entity that makes a “good faith effort to substantially comply” with applicable COVID-19 guidance would be immune from civil liability for a COVID-19-related civil action. Healthcare providers are not covered entities and are not afforded COVID-19 liability protection under the bill.
The bill sets forth the following standards for a COVID-19-related civil action against a covered entity:
- The plaintiff must plead his or her complaint with particularity.
- At the time of filing suit, the plaintiff must submit a physician’s affidavit confirming the physician’s belief that the plaintiff’s COVID-19 related injury occurred because of the defendant’s acts or omissions.
- The court will determine whether the defendant made the requisite “good faith effort to substantially comply” with applicable COVID-19 guidance.
- If the court determines the defendant made a good faith effort, the defendant is immune from civil liability.
- If the court determines that the defendant did not make a good faith effort, the case may proceed to a jury.
- The plaintiff must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant acted with at least gross negligence.
- The bill affords a one-year statute of limitations.
- If passed, the law would apply retroactively.
Other states, like Tennessee, have established similar legislation including standards for COVID-19 lawsuits. It will be interesting to see if HB 7, and its sister bill in the Florida Senate, become law.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman handle various types of litigation, and are licensed to practice in several states, including Florida. Contact us today.