During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Legislature adopted a number of COVID-19 specific legislation. There are two bills in particular that community associations should be familiar with.
CS/SB 72, Relating to Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19. This new law imposes significant legal hurdles for individuals who want to sue over coronavirus-related injuries or deaths. Plaintiffs who file suit will need to provide a physician’s affidavit to establish the basis for the injury claim. They will also need to prove in court that a defendant did not make a good faith effort to comply with public health standards and to prove that a defendant committed gross negligence under a “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard.
Florida condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners’ associations are classified as business entities protected by the new law. Boards who took steps to comply with local, state and federal guidelines should be able to rely upon this new law for protection.
The law applies retroactively and prospectively, but does not apply to lawsuits that have already been filed.
CS/CS/SB 2006, Relating to Emergency Management. This new law amends the State Emergency Management Act to address the threat posed by a pandemic or other public health emergencies.
The new law vests the Governor with power to at any time invalidate an emergency order issued by a political subdivision if the Governor determines that such order unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties. The law is discretionary to the Governor “determining” what does and does not “unnecessarily restrict individual rights or liberties.” (Note that community associations are not “political subdivisions”, and therefore, this section of the law does not apply to community associations.)
The new law also restricts a business entity, governmental entity, or educational institution from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Specifically, a “business entity” operating in this state, may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state. This subsection does not otherwise restrict businesses from instituting screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.
The term “business entity” includes corporations not-for-profit, and therefore, includes community associations. However, there is a question as to whether the prohibition on “vaccine passports” applies to community associations and their residents, some arguing that they do not have patrons or customers.
Click here to read the original CAI Central Florida Times article on page 14.
Yeline Goin is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law, and a senior attorney in Becker’s Community Association practice. She is a former senior attorney with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes. To learn more about Yeline, please click here.