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Legislation to extend protections for health care providers against COVID-related lawsuits cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 7-4 party-line vote on Tuesday.
That date aligns with the scheduled expiration of limits on vaccine mandates that the Legislature approved during a special session earlier in November.
The liability protection applies to hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities that made a “good faith effort to comply with authoritative or controlling government-issued health standards of guidance.” Plaintiffs could sue only if they can demonstrate at least “gross negligence.”
Jason Hand, vice president for public policy for the Florida Senior Living Association, told the committee that COVID has cost his industry an estimated $2.3 billion thus far. The courts are still interpreting the underlying liability limits adopted last year, he added, so the industry’s exposure to these lawsuits remains unclear.
Robin Khanal, an attorney with the Orlando office of the Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer law firm who represents facilities in these cases, said he is still defending 75 COVID liability claims filed last year during a “rush to the courthouse” while last year’s bill was pending. Each packs a minimum liability of $30,000, he said.
Stephen Cain of the Florida Justice Association complained the extension would reward bad actors in the industry.
“We’re back to business as normal. We shouldn’t be insulating health care providers by allowing this extension of immunity” which “utterly closes the courthouse door.”
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