On March 29, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law Chapter 2021-1, designed to deter certain COVID-19-related lawsuits against a wide range of individuals, businesses, healthcare providers, and governmental and religious organizations. The legislation, which will be codified as sections 768.38 and 768.381 of the Florida Statutes, implements several new requirements applicable to a plaintiff bringing a “COVID-19-related claim.” This covers “a civil liability claim… which arises from or is related to COVID-19” or, in the case of a claim against a healthcare provider, “a civil liability claim” arising from, among other things, transmission of COVID-19; a diagnosis or treatment of, or failure to diagnose or treat, a person for COVID-19; the provision of a novel or experimental COVID-19 treatment; or delay or cancellation of a surgery or procedure due to a government-issued COVID-19-related health directive or guidance.
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Doctors and hospitals overwhelmed in the pandemic will have to make their excruciating life-or-death decisions meticulously or they risk being second-guessed by a jury when the onslaught is over.
Lawyers who defend health care providers are already giving advice on how their clients can avoid liability if they’re forced to choose between patients. How they prepare for this battlefield triage now — and how they practice it in the chaos of peak infections — will determine whether negligence cases against them are dismissed or lead to trials or settlements over the death of a parent or spouse.
Hospitals and doctors are focused on care right now, as they should be, said Sean Zabaneh, a lawyer with Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia who represents them in court.
Still, he said, they should be “making sure they have insurance coverage in place that is applicable to the new circumstances that are becoming more normal every day as a result of the pandemic, and staying up to date on the quickly evolving legal standards and legislation.” Lawmakers could pass legislation to protect health care providers that adhere to the standard of care, he added.
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