COVID-19 civil liability protection bill clears first hurdle

The House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee advanced legislation Wednesday that creates COVID-19 liability protections for select Florida businesses.

The measure, HB 7, is sponsored by Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure. The bill cleared its first committee stop with an 11-6 vote.

By design, HB 7 shields Florida businesses, nonprofits, schools and religious institutions from frivolous COVID-19 related lawsuits.

The bill’s retroactive protections apply to organizations who make a “good faith effort” to follow federal, state and local health guidelines as determined by a court. Advocates contend the measure is a necessary component to Florida’s economic recovery.

“My concern is we can lose an entire generation of entrepreneurs if we don’t provide some certainty,” warned Sarasota Rep. James Buchannan.

The bill advanced without five amendments proposed by Democratic Ranking Member Ben Diamond and Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson. While three amendments failed and two were withdrawn, the passage was not without debate.

Diamond’s amendments, among other pursuits, challenged a provision that requires a Florida physician to attest that a defendant contracted COVID-19 from the defendant’s premise.

Another amendment aimed to add employee protections into the measure. The bill — under protest by some lawmakers — remains

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