The Legislature passed and Gov. DeSantis signed a new law that raises the bar for consumers who allege they got infected by COVID-19 at a Fla. business. And businesses have new protections if they’ve made a good-faith effort to comply with government guidelines.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On Friday, March 26, 2021, the Florida Legislature passed a comprehensive bill (SB 72) that severely limits businesses’ risk from COVID-19 lawsuits. Three days later, on Monday, March 29, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law.
For Florida real estate brokers and commercial businesses – including the Mom-and-Pop operations that form the backbone of the state’s economy – a lawsuit alleging “I got COVID-19 from you” is a business threat. Before SB 72 became law, the cost of a court case hung over the head of every Florida business owner.
Under the new law, a lawsuit filed against a Florida business must:
- Be filed with “particularity,” which generally means a detailed description of the allegation.
- Include a physician’s affidavit submitted at the same time, stating that the physician believes the defendant (business owner) caused, through acts or omissions, the plaintiff’s damages, injury or death.
If a lawsuit doesn’t have these mandatory elements, a court must automatically dismiss the case. Plaintiffs don’t lose their right to refile, but if they do, they must include the mandatory elements listed. This portion of the law should cut down on frivolous lawsuits.
Even if a COVID-19 sufferer did contract the virus from a brokerage, the new law includes protections for business owners if the courts determine they’ve made a good-faith effort to substantially comply with government-issued health standards or guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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