PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The legislative session ended on Friday, and Florida’s Chief Financial Officer said there were many victories for Floridians.
CFO Jimmy Patronis stopped by our newsroom to talk about the passage of some of his priorities, especially when it comes to fighting for consumers during the pandemic.
“Everything that we wanted to take prominence in the state this past year, we were successful with,” Patronis said. “The biggest one was COVID-19 liability protections— when you consider what the pandemic has done to healthcare facilities, not-for profits, small businesses… having that peace of mind that they wouldn’t be affected by a frivolous lawsuit.”
He also said people were “already getting kicked while they were down with tighter margins, and this was a way to give them some breathing room and get open back up.”
He said this was for businesses, healthcare workers, not-for profits and churches.
“Basically, it was an umbrella, but it still did not eliminate the access to the courts,” Patronis said. “If you’re dealing with a reckless business, and a doctor says ‘this is how you caught it,’ then there’s a pathway to go, and take that business to court in order to find some type of restitution.”
Patronis said the reasoning behind it was out of fear, and that 21 other states had already done something like it.
“Some states have legislative sessions that met earlier than us, so this was just Florida’s response back to it,” Patronis said. “We started working on this issue back in May of 2020… we knew something was going to be a concern. Because businesses were, ‘Am I doing enough, is my social distancing, masks, are my sanitation procedures, are those enough to protect me from a lawsuit?’ So this is why when we said if you’re following CDC guidelines, following Department of Health guidelines, you’re doing things right by the orders of the law, then we’re going to give you some cover.”
Patronis also said the legislation protects healthcare facilities, including long-term care and assisted living facilities from frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19.