Florida businesses could be in for new protections

'We're always a target for drive-by lawyers,' says restaurant owner
Posted at 10:14 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 23:32:07-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Thierry Beaud is the owner of Pistache French Bistro in downtown West Palm Beach. He said the shutdown in March because of the pandemic was devastating.

"We were able to retain some takeout and delivery operations, but we had to immediately lay off 140 employees company-wide," he said.

Beaud said he received federal funds from the Paycheck Protection Program. He said the money gave them the opportunity to stabilize two of the three restaurants he owns and hire back employees.

His eatery was the backdrop Wednesday for an announcement from Florida's chief financial officer. Jimmy Patronis hosted a "Rally at the Restaurant" to propose COVID-19 liability protections for businesses statewide.

"We're always a target for drive-by lawyers, lawsuits, slip and falls and this and that, that this legislation may pass," he said.

Patronis said the proposed legislation is based on principals of businesses doing right by their employees and customers, making sure Florida's economy rebounds. He's taking aim at so-called "sue-and-settle" tactics. He said justice should come first.

"Making sure litigation is thoughtful if there is going to be litigation," he said. "If a business is going is to be held accountable, absolutely, they should be held accountable."

Beaud said if passed in Tallahassee, the legislation gives him one less worry on which to focus.

"Allows us to sort of work safely, but also in a manner where people feel safe coming and it also makes sense economically," he said.

Patronis said 21 other states have enacted legislation like what he's proposing.