A Senate bill that would protect medical providers from claims related to COVID-19 is winding its way through the Florida Legislature, having been approved on February 10, 2021 by the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 74 requires a heightened standard of particularity in any civil action against a healthcare provider based on a claim related to the coronavirus and requires that the plaintiff prove “by the greater weight of the evidence” that the provider was either grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct:
(a) By failing to substantially follow authoritative or applicable government-issued health standards or guidance relating to COVID-19;
(b) In interpreting or applying the standards or guidance with respect to the provision of health care or related services, or lack thereof, or the allocation of scarce resources or assistance with daily living; or
(c) In the provision of a novel or experimental COVID-19 treatment.
The bill further imposes a one-year statute of limitations and immunizes providers from claims if “supplies, materials, equipment, or personnel necessary to comply with the applicable government-issued health standards or guidance at issue were not readily available or were not available at a reasonable cost.”
The House version of the bill differs in some ways, including the use of the “clear and convincing evidence” standard and the requirement that the plaintiff submit an affidavit by a physician averring that the virus-related damages occurred as a result of the defendant provider’s acts or omissions.
The bills are supported by the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Health Care Association.