Hoping to hold your employer liable for your exposure to COVID-19? Not so fast.
COVID Liability Shield Law Passed in Florida
On March 29, 2021, Governor DeSantis passed a law shielding many businesses, including educational institutions, government entities and religious institutions, from liability for COVID-19 related claims. It took immediate effect.
What does this mean?
If you are thinking of bringing a claim for negligence against your employer because of exposure to and/or because you got sick with COVID-19 at work, you will have an up-hill battle to get justice.
Here is what you need to know if you are thinking about pursuing a COVID-19 related injury or wrongful death claim for damages against your employer:
- The new law heightens the traditional negligence standards for COVID related injury claims. A plaintiff is normally required to prove that the employer engaged in negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, the lowest standard of proof in civil cases. Instead, the COVID shield requires a plaintiff to prove that an employer was grossly negligent by clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is the highest standard of proof for civil cases.
- Ordinary negligence claims are subject to a four year statute of limitations, but this new law reduces a COVID related negligence claim to one year after the negligent acts or one year after March 29, 2021, if the negligence occurred before this date.
If you can overcome these hurdles, your employer may be liable for its gross negligence. Gross negligence as defined by Florida law means that an employer’s “conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.”
An employer may be entitled to a defense to liability if they can show they engaged in good faith efforts to prevent exposure or harm by COVID-19.
NOTE: Injury claims at work are typically covered by worker’s compensation, which is typically the exclusive remedy for workplace injury and/or illness claims. If workers’ compensation applies, then you may be barred from pursuing a negligence claim related to workplace COVID exposure or illness.