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Crist Expects 'Legitimate Immunity' For Businesses Against COVID-19 Lawsuits To Come From Washington

Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., center, pauses to speak with Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., right, in the doorway to a closed House Democratic caucus meeting called by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as she moves  toward House passage of a coronavirus aid package possibly this week, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

At both the state and federal level, lawmakers are hearing from business-owning constituents who want protection from potential COVID-19-related lawsuits. Democratic U.S. Representative Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg is the latest Florida politician to address the issue.

Ibrahim Moussa, the owner of Clearwater restaurant Abe’s Place Tap & Grill, told Crist he has employees still afraid to come to work. He’s worried, as the economy reopens, lawsuits could come from people claiming they got sick at his establishment.

“We are not asking for immunity, but some sort of a safe harbor when we open, if we do our job, and do it to the best of our ability,” Moussa said.

Moussa was on a conference call hosted by Crist Wednesday, to share concerns from the hospitality industry. Crist is lawyer who formerly served as Florida’s attorney general.

“This is termed, in a legal sense, an act of God. So, it’s hard to hold any particular business (accountable) – not that people don’t try, we have a litigious society,” Crist told Moussa.

Crist expects coming legislation from Washington will include some sort of protection for business owners who do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I think additionally, in the legislation, previous and going forward, some kind of legitimate immunity would be included,” he added.

Crist’s legislative director, Chris Fisher, pointed out in order to protect them, state and federal health safety guidelines for businesses will be paramount – but those don’t yet exist.

Republicans in Congress have reportedly prioritized protections for businesses as part of a next stimulus package, while Democrats have bristled at the idea.

At the state level, Saint Petersburg Republican Senator Jeff Brandes saidin April he’s preparing a bill that would protect Florida businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits.

Other states, including Alabama and Utah, have recently considered legislation that would do the same.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit .

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.