Businesses want protection from COVID-19 lawsuits

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“What can we do in the short term to limit the impact this is having on our lives?” Sen. Marco Rubio asked in a Sept. 1 webinar about Florida’s economic relaunch with the Florida Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 1.

Rapid testing would be a game changer, he said. A saliva-based test that costs just $5 a test has been approved, Rubio explained. The federal government has purchased 150 million of those tests. He said he has asked the federal government to give Florida at least 10 million of those tests. While the test is not as sensitive as other tests, it could be useful in targeted areas.

He said there is also progress being made in therapies to help treat the illness.

A vaccine would be the biggest game changer, he continued. A vaccine would that could be given to those most a risk at first, and eventually available to all is the goal, he said.

A poll taken by the Florida Chamber showed 68% of Democrats opined Florida has not been restrictive enough in implementing precautions against the spread of COVID-19 while 68% of Republicans thought the state’s response was “about right,” said Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t have two Floridas. We have two perspectives,” he said.

Wilson said the pandemic also brings business concerns about lawsuits.

“Every couple years there is a ranking of all 50 states, and Florida right now has the fifth worst legal ranking in the country, he continue. “That costs local businesses. It raises prices. It raises insurance rates,” he said.

He said the chamber is beginning to see commercials from personal injury trial lawyers encouraging people to sue businesses over COVID-19 related issues. He said the chamber has asked the Florida Legislature to pass legislation to protect businesses that follow the CDC guidelines related to COVID-19.

Rubio said without legal protection for businesses, there will be a cottage industry of trial lawyers who go around suing businesses claiming employees or customers were harmed by exposure to COVID-19. These attorneys will be looking for insurance companies with deep pockets who would be willing to settle cases. Businesses that survive COVID-19 might not survive such lawsuits, he said. “We want some federal protection on that,” he said.

“We’re not looking to excuse somebody who does things that are reckless and negligent and knowingly put people in danger and at risk,” he explained. “But there has to be some things that if you do them, that allows you some safe harbor.

“The concern is these insurance companies will settle cases because it costs more to fight it than to settle. That creates a cottage industry that starts going after everybody,” Rubio said.

“No one is looking to get away with gross negligence, but there has to be some safe harbor that employers can rely on for some protection,” he said.

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