COVID Liability Protections Extended To 2023
The Florida Senate has extended Florida’s COVID liability protections for businesses while simultaneously passing measures that prevent local businesses and governments from imposing lockdowns or mandates. The issue is serious and should be considered seriously. On the one hand, you have a state government attempting to downplay the pandemic. On the other hand, the state government is protecting businesses from the ongoing surge of COVID cases amid new variants. To be sure, the businesses are within their authority to force anyone who enters the business to put a mask on. However, the law overrides the property-based autonomy of businesses to prevent them from imposing any requirements on guests.
One would assume that since Florida has the largest population of older Americans in the country, this is an attempt to thin the herd. However, that doesn’t make sense either since the Republican politicians rely heavily on older Americans to vote them into power. Nonetheless, nursing homes are essentially immune from lawsuits alleging COVID misconduct. A plaintiff who wants to file a lawsuit against a nursing home would have to prove gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
It’s nearly impossible to prove how you acquired a virus unless you are bound to a single place for an indefinite period of time. Since you can’t leave the place, the staff would have had to bring the virus to you in order for you to get sick. This ended up happening a lot. The virus was brought into the nursing home by staff who were either already showing symptoms of the disease or were around someone who was. The staffer did not call off from work and instead brought the virus into the facility where it infected the most vulnerable of populations, the elderly and those recovering from recent surgeries.
As a result, the virus spread like wildfire throughout these facilities. In some cases, COVID-positive patients were placed near to those who were negative. In other cases, standard infection protocols that would need to be present in a nursing home facility were completely lacking. Does that constitute gross negligence? Or is it only simple negligence? The courts would have to decide on a per case basis whether or not the negligence rises to the standard of willful misconduct or gross negligence.
When can you sue?
We know that intentional misconduct could lead to a lawsuit in a COVID infection case. But what does that look like? Is it a worker coming to work when they know they could be sick or have been exposed to someone who is also sick? They intentionally ran the risk of infecting their patients when they made the choice to show up for work anyway. Or is it simple negligence because it could have been an allergy problem or some other condition with similar symptoms?
Right now, there is no real standard for these cases. The law is aimed at preventing lawsuits, so that is precisely what it does. With no guidance, it will scare lawyers away from taking these cases. That, in fact, is the point.
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