Government watchdog FL TaxWatch says COVID liability could cost the state economy “as much as $16.1 billion,” endorses legislation blocking lawsuits

Florida TaxWatch and a Republican Cabinet member are putting pressure on the Legislature to pass civil liability protection from lawsuits related to COVID-19 against businesses that follow safety guidelines during the pandemic.

The nonprofit government watchdog group held a virtual press conference Monday to discuss key findings from its report on the economic damage from COVID-19 litigation against businesses.

“As you read this report, you’ll also know that there is one clear recommendation that cuts across all others,” said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of TaxWatch.

“And that is the need for a responsible liability shield for responsible companies, non-profits, government agencies, churches and schools, synagogues, and health-care providers from costly unnecessary litigation.”

Calabro stressed that distributing COVID vaccine remains a top priority. The report recommends that “the Florida Legislature should permit Florida pharmacists with the proper safety and storage equipment to administer COVID-19 vaccines when they become available.”

According to TaxWatch, the absence of legislation to shield businesses from COVID liability could cost the state economy “as much as $16.1 billion” and “more than 208,000 jobs lost.”

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis predicted during the news conference that COVID liability legislation filed by Republican lawmakers will move through both chambers of the Florida Legislature.

“The three things I’ve been keeping pretty simple is, take care of our employees, take care of our people, keep the policies simple to follow, and put people over attorney’s profits,” Patronis said.

“We’ve got to hold our legislators accountable.”

Those bills, SB 72 and HB 7, were introduced by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who represents part of Pinellas County, and state Rep. Lawrence McClure, who represents part of Hillsborough County.

“The COVID-19 liability legislation creates a safe harbor for businesses that have acted in good faith from opportunistic lawsuits,” Brandes said in a written statement.

To watch the entire press conference, click here.


This report first appeared on the website of the Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to coverage of state government and politics from Tallahassee.

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