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Governor DeSantis Signs COVID-19 Liability Bill

Yesterday Governor DeSantis signed SB 72 which gives civil immunity to not-for-profit corporations, hospitals, nursing homes, government entities, schools and churches for COVID-19 related claims as long as the alleged negligence doesn’t involve gross negligence or intentional misconduct. “COVID-19 related claim” means a civil liability claim against a person, including a natural person, a business entity, an educational institution, a governmental entity, or a religious institution, which arises from or is related to COVID-19. The term includes any such claim for damages, injury, or death.

What does this mean for community associations who have taken significant steps to safeguard their residents throughout this pandemic?

Florida condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners’ associations are classified as business entities protected by this bill which is welcome news!

Boards who took steps to comply with local, state and federal guidelines should be able to rely upon this new law for protection.

The new law imposes significant legal hurdles for individuals who want to sue over coronavirus-related injuries or deaths. Plaintiffs who file suit will need to provide a physician’s affidavit to establish the basis for the injury claim. They will also need to prove in court that a defendant did not make a good faith effort to comply with public health standards and to prove that a defendant committed gross negligence under a “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard.

The law establishes a one-year statute of limitations to sue from the later of the date of death, hospitalization or the COVID-19 diagnosis that forms the basis of the claim. This newfound statutory protection applies to claims that accrued before the enactment of the law and within one year following the Governor’s signing of it, but it does not apply to lawsuits that have already been filed.

While we applaud the passage of this new law, it is important for boards to remember that the State of Florida is still under a statewide state of emergency until April 26. Less than a quarter of Florida’s population has been fully vaccinated at this point and federal and local health officials continue to warn of possible surges due to variants. Many county ordinances requiring facial coverings in association common areas remain in effect. It is not only reasonable but prudent for boards to continue to exercise due caution when operating and opening common amenities and enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols.

Please continue to utilize our Bill Tracker which is updated on a weekly basis. This tool allows you to review all of the bills CALL is tracking and see where they’re headed.

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Donna DiMaggio Berger

Contact: dberger@beckerlawyers.com

Donna DiMaggio Berger is a member of the College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL), a prestigious national organization that acknowledges community association attorneys who have distinguished themselves through contributions to the evolution or practice of community association law and who have committed themselves to high standards of professional and ethical conduct in the practice of community association law. Ms. Berger is also one of only 129 attorneys statewide who is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law.