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Monday, March 8, 2021

Florida House passes bill granting businesses ‘broad immunity’ from COVID-related lawsuits

Posted By on Mon, Mar 8, 2021 at 10:03 AM

click to enlarge House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor - PHOTO VIA FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • Photo via Florida House of Representatives
  • House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor
The Florida House of Representatives giveth and taketh away.

The House on Friday passed a proposal (HB 7) that provides broad immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits to non-health care related businesses. But the Republican-led chamber also agreed last week to lift a 20-year-plus ban that prohibited other lawsuits.

Members of the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee voted unanimously Thursday to advance a bill (HB 651) that involves medical malpractice lawsuits alleging wrongful deaths of single, childless adults. The bill would allow the parents of such adults to recover noneconomic damages from physicians and hospitals.

The unanimous vote shocked more than one legislative observer this week. It also sent some mixed messages to health care providers, who continue to wait for the Florida House to pass legislation to protect them from COVID-19-related lawsuits.

On that front, House Speaker Chris Sprowls told reporters Friday that lawsuit protections for health care providers remains a priority for his chamber but the House wants to keep the issues separate. Lawsuit protections for health care providers are contained in HB 7005.

That puts the chamber at odds with the Florida Senate, which, according to Sen. Jeff Brandes, will combine the liability protections for health care providers (SB 74) and lawsuit protections for non-health care businesses (SB 72) into one bill.

“I think the key is that we are focused on one singular issue,” Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, told the News Service of Florida earlier this week.

Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, doesn't seem convinced.

"We'll see how that goes," the speaker said Friday of the Senate's one-bill approach. "Right now, we've obviously sent them our business liability bill (HB 7). We have our health care bill moving. They have their business and health care bill moving. So we'll see where we are at."

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