Florida CFO to Focus On Pandemic Business Liability Protections in 2021 Session

May 27, 2020

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said he will pursue legislation that establishes liability protections for businesses in the next legislative session slated to start in March 2021.

The Florida Department of Financial Services said in a statement that Patronis is currently working with stakeholders including businesses, associations and elected leaders, to craft legislation that will “head-off frivolous lawsuits in order to protect Florida’s economy and get Florida back to work.”

Specific details of the legislation were not yet available, DFS said, but Patronis said the legislation would take away incentives for lawyers to engage in “predatory ‘sue and settle’ tactics, and shield small businesses from liability for COVID-19 related claims, while still allowing legitimate lawsuits based on ‘reckless disregard for human life’ to move forward.”

“We can’t allow our state’s recovery to be inhibited by the constant threat of lawsuits that will put people out of business and inevitably jack up insurance rates for people who are trying to make an honest living,” Patronis said. “I think it’s important that leaders take a stand sooner-than-later to make it clear to Florida businesses that we’ve got their backs.”

As a member of Executive Committee of Governor Ron DeSantis’s Re-Open Florida Task Force, DFS said that Patronis saw testimony from business, association and elected leaders that expressed the need for liability protection. Based on the testimony, protections will be essential for businesses to comfortably operate in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue was also brought forward by businesses and industry sector representatives across Florida as Patronis has met with them during the pandemic.

The DFS statement said left unchecked, COVID-19 lawsuits based on premises liability and other theories have the potential to permanently shutdown cash-strapped businesses. Many businesses may be forced to settle a COVID-19 lawsuit instead of proving through contract tracing that a plaintiff contracted COVID-19 elsewhere.

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is a statewide elected official and a member of Florida’s Cabinet who oversees the Department of Financial Services.

Source: Florida Department of Financial Services

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