OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
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The Orlando Sentinel reported today that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB72 into law. The bill was not without controversy as it shields businesses from standard levels of liability if a customer contracted COVID while on the business’s premises. Some in the media expressed concern over the new law. Others wondered why DeSantis seemed to parade the legislation around as his new show pony.
National Review cited a poll last week showing that Governor DeSantis is the clear front runner for the GOP nomination in 2024, should President Trump decline to run. While politicians often think many moves ahead, the bill the governor signed has less to do with three years from now and more to do with opening businesses right now.
It’s not an oversimplification to claim that businesses would be suspicious of opening to the general public if proprietors believed they stood a reasonable chance of being sued for damages amid a pandemic. It should be noted that Florida has no cap on tort liability. A person could feasibly contract COVID while exercising their free will to enter a business, only to turn around and sue that business for neglect.
One million dollars is a lot of money. These days, that’s small potatoes when it comes to frivolous lawsuits. Just last week, Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News. While no judge or jury would be likely to award that amount, the litigation Fox will be obliged to supply costs money.
The weaponization and politicization of COVID-19 is the real story in the new Florida law. Cities, states, and the federal government have each used the pandemic to further agendas and vendettas. Congress let the economy tank and cities burn to tilt the odds away from what seemed like an easy lay-up for Trump to be reelected. National Guard troops were mustered to protect a phantom inauguration. It is no longer absurd or fantastic to predict the government will act against its citizens’ interests.
In that vein, Florida’s law to protect against future government abuses makes sense. Moreover, the bill passed both chambers of the state legislature by comfortable margins. It demonstrates the concerns state officials have for keeping their economy robust.
Frivolous lawsuits linked to the pandemic simply won’t be tolerated in Florida:
[Orlando Sentinel] “COVID-19 claims against a business or health care provider now require an affidavit from a medical professional asserting the person contracted the virus on the company’s property and need to have “clear and convincing evidence” of “gross negligence” — a high legal standard — to bring a case. Lawsuits also must be filed within a year from Monday to be considered valid.”
Telling mom-n-pop they can open their business is one thing. Doing it without offering protection from get-rich-quick types looking to sue is another. Governor DeSantis and the Florida legislature may have political ambitions beyond their current offices. Nearly all politicians are guilty of it. The new law isn’t about COVID or vaccine passports directly.
It’s about encouraging confidence so businesses can focus on what they do best: business.
As always, this has been the World According to Chris.
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