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Monday, March 29, 2021

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs 'liability shield' law that protects employers from being sued over COVID-19 exposure

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2021 at 2:20 PM

  • Screen capture courtesy NBC2 News/Facebook

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law protecting businesses from being sued by employees and others over exposure to COVID-19.

The so-called "liability shield" sets an incredibly high standard that any plaintiff would have to meet before they could bring a case against a business. In a state that rushed to open and effectively forced service workers back into situations where they might be exposed, the liability shield is a relief to petty tyrants and business owners across the state.

The law first stipulates that the plaintiff must have a note from a doctor swearing to the fact that they contracted coronavirus while at the business in question. Given the slow, long gestation period of the virus, where it can take as long as two weeks for symptoms to become apparent (if they present at all), it would be hard to eliminate other sources of transmission.

Beyond that, a judge must find that the owner of the business was grossly negligent with regards to state COVID-19 protocols and other health and safety standards. This legal precedent is a high bar to clear, meaning that the defendant acted willfully with a complete disregard for the health of other human beings. The person in question has to know that their actions are likely to cause harm and proceed with them anyway.

Coupled with the state's relatively lax rules around coronavirus shutdowns and reopenings, this new law could make it almost impossible for employees to make a case that they were pushed into a situation that lead to them getting sick.

The governor also signed a law banning the use of "vaccine passports," by which he meant proof that a person has been fully vaccinated. DeSantis argued vehemently against the idea that a business might ask for proof of vaccination before serving a customer in a news conference from Tallahassee.

"It’s completely unacceptable,” DeSantis said. “You want to go to a movie theater, should you have to show that? No. You want to go to a game, a theme park? No. So we’re not supportive of that.”

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