DeSantis extends COVID-19 legal protections

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed a bill that extends COVID-19 legal protections for hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers to June 1, 2023.

The governor’s office, as is common, announced the signing without comment. Lawmakers last year passed a measure to help shield healthcare providers from COVID-19 lawsuits, but the protections were set to expire on March 29, 2022. 

With the pandemic continuing, the House and Senate during this year’s legislative session approved the extension to June 2023. The extension took effect immediately with DeSantis’ signature Thursday. The bill (SB 7014) addresses lawsuits involving issues such as the transmission of COVID-19 and treatment of people with COVID-19. 

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Health-care providers can still face COVID-19 lawsuits. But the legal protections, for example, require a higher standard of proof for plaintiffs. In such cases, plaintiffs have to prove "by the greater weight of the evidence that the health care provider was grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct." 

Also, healthcare providers are shielded from lawsuits if they can offer "affirmative" defenses, such as compliance with government-issued health standards. The House voted 87-31 to pass the measure after the Senate supported it in a 22-13 vote.

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