Friday, May 29, 2020

Business leaders continue to push for coronavirus liability shields

American businesses are working hard to take measures to protect their employees and customers amid the COVID-19 crisis. However, the risk of opportunistic lawsuits poses a significant barrier in their ability to bounce back from the economic crisis. As businesses start to reopen, employers simply want to know that if they take reasonable steps to follow public health guidelines, they will be protected against needless lawsuits.

Yesterday, more than 200 diverse trade associations and other groups called for Congress to provide temporary and targeted liability relief legislation. There is broad public support as well as strong support across the political spectrum for liability protections, and a consensus is emerging on this issue.

“During times of past crises, Congress has passed liability protections on a bipartisan basis, and must do so again,” said Harold Kim, President, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. “The U.S. Chamber and the Institute for Legal Reform are leading this coalition to urge lawmakers to protect businesses against the acute economic threat of lawsuits.”

Here in Alabama, the State Legislature was unable to take up a measure to provide protection due to the shortened 2020 Legislative Session, but on May 8th, Gov. Kay Ivey issued an executive order that offers protection for businesses, health care providers, universities, public institutions of higher education, and their employees, officers and agents from unwarranted legal liability stemming from COVID-19.

ATA President and CEO Mark Colson said the measure is needed to protect businesses as state government officials begin to restart the state’s economy.

“Truckers remain on the front lines of the crisis response,” Colson said, “and we will be on the front lines of the economic recovery, as well. But to do so, trucking, as well as all businesses, need protection from frivolous lawsuits.”

However, Colson added, looking long term it is just as essential that the legislature eventually passes civil liability protections for businesses and their employees. “I look forward to working with the Legislature and other business organizations to achieve that,” he said.