Health care providers, schools, businesses, nonprofits and others who followed COVID-19 public health directives would be protected from unfair lawsuits for good-faith actions they took during the pandemic under legislation approved by the Senate today, according to Sen. Lisa Baker.
“In ordinary times, closing any door to the courthouse would not be a preferred step for many,” said Baker, who authored several key components of the package. “Given the immense challenges we are confronting, it is hard to see how we could responsibly avoid such an action.”
The legislation aims to head off waves of lawsuits that could bankrupt already struggling employers and unfairly harm institutions who did their best to follow the changing and sometimes conflicting guidance provided by state and federal governments.
“When I talk to struggling business owners and nonprofit organizations, they express fear that one lawsuit could be their death sentence,” Baker explained. “Those fighting to stay open do not need to incur litigation costs and potentially get hit with judgments on top of all the other pressures and stresses afflicting them.”
Complete immunity is not provided for anyone. The measure simply ensures that if people or entities follow public health directives, they will not be held responsible for any harm that allegedly occurred. Health care providers, PPE manufacturers, schools, universities, childcare providers, businesses, nonprofits, and governments would still be responsible for any intentionally wrongful or reckless acts.
Liability protection is also offered under the proposal for farmers who want to host agritourism events like hayrides, farm tours, and corn mazes. The site must post specific warning signs, and have a signed, written agreement with visitors that they have acknowledged the risk of participating in a particular activity.
“Not a day goes by without news about business closures, layoffs, and permanent job losses,” Baker added. “If we cannot put a tourniquet on the economic bleeding, the fiscal distress felt by families will deepen and the hill of eventual economic recovery will be steeper.”
House Bill 1737 was returned to the House of Representatives, as amended, for further consideration.