May 01, 2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis is considering the support of legislation that would add further protections to businesses from liability related to the new coronavirus.

When Florida’s businesses start to reopen on Monday, questions about worker and customer safety are likely to be among their most pressing concerns.

Florida lawmakers want to make it easier on them — by protecting them from lawsuits by customers and employees who get infected with COVID-19 on their premises.

As part of a nationwide push, state lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis are considering passing laws and executive orders that would prevent lawyers from making cases against businesses that are simply following the governor’s guidelines.

The idea is already drawing objections from trial lawyers, who are questioning the wisdom of automatically granting immunity to businesses.

“If there is immunity, what does that say to the public?” Leslie Kroeger, a Palm Beach Gardens attorney and president of the Florida Justice Association, which represents thousands of trial lawyers. “'If you get sick, ‘Really sorry about that.’ That’s not instilling trust. That’s not welcoming people to get back to some sense of normalcy.”

Kroeger said she hasn’t heard any of her members mention filing COVID-19-related lawsuits. She said it would be “ridiculous” and “next to impossible” to bring a lawsuit where somebody fell ill just by visiting a business or restaurant.

“Every place that person has been, you’d have to contact trace everyone in that establishment,” Kroeger said, referring to the method epidemiologists use to trace the spread of disease. “I can’t even imagine taking that on.”

Kroeger said any cases that could be brought would almost certainly be focused on concentrated places where managers were clearly operating recklessly.

“A nursing home? That’s a different situation.”

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