A scheduled committee vote on a bill that many agricultural businesses in Florida are watching was delayed Monday after the measure’s primary sponsor, Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, was delayed in another meeting. The lawsuit-limitation bill (SB 72) would protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
Senate Commerce and Tourism Chairman Sen. Ed Hooper from Clearwater told The News Service of Florida (NSF) that the bill will now most likely be considered at his committee’s next meeting, scheduled for March 2.
According to NSF, Republican legislative leaders, backed by business groups, have made a top priority of passing a measure to help shield businesses from lawsuits related to the pandemic. Senate and House leaders have fast-tracked identical bills, with the House Judiciary Committee slated to vote on the House bill (HB 7) on Tuesday.
The Senate bill was delayed Monday when the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Brandes chairs, had a lengthy debate on a proposal to change how settlement offers are made in civil lawsuits. Brandes is the primary sponsor of the proposal (SB 686), which ultimately cleared the Judiciary Committee by a slim 6-4 vote.
The proposal by Brandes and the identical House bill sponsored by Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Dover, would make it harder for people to successfully sue businesses for damages, injuries, or deaths related to COVID-19. The proposal does not address legal protections for health-care providers, which are being handled in separate bills.
The 2021Florida Legislative Session begins March 2nd.