Following the COVID-19 pandemic, our local businesses continue to face substantial uncertainty and ever-changing guidance in how to safely operate. A large part of that uncertainty stems from the threat of legal liability from customers and employees alike who might assert claims that a business exposed them to COVID-19 or failed to take adequate action to guard against the risk of exposure.
Litigation will also include personal injury tort actions premised on customers’ claimed COVID-19 exposure while patronizing a business. Although all lawsuits will face the substantial hurdle of showing the customer’s illness was caused by the business’s conduct, even weak legal claims may stigmatize the business and be persuasive to juries, on top of being costly to defend. If the goal of reopening Florida is to jumpstart the economy, Florida’s businesses need greater assurance that they may do so without risking an onslaught of litigation tied to COVID-19.
We are asking the State of Florida to support businesses and employers who take reasonable steps to protect their employees and customers while following public health and safety guidelines. Specifically, legal protections should cover the following:
- Businesses that work to follow government guidelines against COVID-19 exposure.
- Healthcare providers and facilities on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.
- Manufacturers that repurposed production and distribution to provide PPE, sanitizers, and other needed equipment and supplies.
- Companies that have donated their stock of supplies to hospitals and medical professionals.
Given its mission to provide solutions and strengthen our local economy, The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce supports the consideration of these lawsuit abuse reforms that will allow Southwest Florida businesses to reopen safely and without the fear of lawsuits when trying to do the right thing in response to COVID-19. The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce also supports bipartisan policy cooperation on this issue to ensure Florida emerges from the pandemic as quickly and strongly as possible.