Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Discussions about employer liability amid COVID-19 crisis heat up

There’s been a lot of talk about the potential civil liability of a business with regard to its duty to customers and employees amid the current COVID-19 health crisis. For instance, there are various scenarios where an employer could be vulnerable to a lawsuit in the wake of the virus, especially where the employer is given broad discretion over protection measures, or where it is not practicable to strictly adhere to the Governor’s order.

With Alabama’s Legislature set to reconvene on May 4th  — mainly to fulfill its constitutional duty and to pass the state’s budgets for the fiscal year 2021 — a major push from employers to address civil liability questions could motivate them to take up the matter, among others.

ATA President Mark Colson says he’s already working with business organizations in Montgomery to advocate for legislation that would protect businesses from civil litigation claims related to coronavirus.

According to published reports, Sen. Arthur Orr has drafted a bill to provide some protections, and several leading business groups, including ATA, are working with legislators to expand these protections.

“Now is the time for the legislature to act to protect the men and women who have kept our economy rolling during this crisis,” says Colson  “Truckers remain on the front lines of the crisis response, and we will be on the front lines of the economic recovery as well.  We do not need a flurry of frivolous lawsuits to hamper our industry or Alabama’s economy. Fortunately, the legislature is in a position to pass legislation to protect business and support economic recovery.”

Yesterday, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform issued a white paper titled Litigation in the Time of COVID-19.

“As Americans and businesses of all sizes are working together to get through the COVID-19 health crisis, plaintiffs’ lawyers have already begun filing COVID-19-related lawsuits,” the Chamber states. “Limiting litigation abuse is essential to making available the tools and resources needed to combat the virus, and ultimately to spurring economic recovery once the immediate health crisis has been resolved.”

There will be lots more to come on this topic in the coming days, but, in the meantime, if you have concerns or questions, please reach out to