Lawsuits deter bad conduct. It is the whole point of the justice system. Without justice and accountability, bad conduct will increase. For example, Florida gave legal immunity to nursing homes for COVID deaths from careless and reckless infection control. Guess what? Cases of COVID deaths increased after Florida gave nursing homes blanket immunity for neglect and abuse of vulnerable adults during the pandemic.
Governor Desantis passed SB 72 which gave nursing homes and other long-term care facilities blanket protections from COVID-19-related lawsuits. The law made it virtually impossible to sue homes for virus-related damages, injuries or death. Residents must prove that a specific individual intended to harm the person who contracted COVID-19 or showed conscious disregard for their life. That is a criminal standard.
Residents must also obtain a doctor’s sworn statement swearing that the specific defendant’s action led to the person’s infection. Impossible!
Florida continues to experience unprecedented surges in coronavirus cases. Nursing homes face repeated outbreaks and deaths because they have no incentive to stop the carnage. Lawsuits deter such bad conduct. Florida has one of the lowest nursing home staff vaccination rates in the country — trailing only Louisiana.
AARP data shows Florida leads the nation in nursing home resident and staff deaths due to COVID-19. Florida accounts for 20 percent of all coronavirus deaths among residents nationwide. Over a third of Florida’s COVID-19 deaths overall have been among long-term care residents. That is incredibly bad. DeSantis needs to revoke SB 72.
Jeff Johnson is the state director of AARP Florida. He explains:
“It’s all the more reason for the state to really reconsider whether it makes sense to provide liability protection to these facilities.”
It is clear that the legislation is unsafe, unnecessary and unreasonably limits access to the courts. This violates the constitutional right to a jury trial.