Gov. Gary Herbert joined with 20 other Republican governors in sending a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, urging them to pass “common sense” liability protections for American companies that reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter says providing those protections will be a key element of helping the nation recover economically.
“We ask that you take action to provide common sense civil liability protections to health care workers, businesses and schools. When Americans take sensible steps to implement public health best practices, they should have confidence that they will be secure from unreasonable claims,” it reads.
“To be clear, liability protections are not a license for gross negligence, misconduct, or recklessness,” it continued.
Congress is currently hammering out the details of a phase four coronavirus relief package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several Republicans say those protections for businesses are a “red line” item to be included in the next round of coronavirus relief.
Gov. Herbert said in a statement provided to UtahPolicy.com that including these liability protections in any forthcoming legislation would be an important move.
“Offering COVID-19 liability protections to health care workers, businesses and schools is common sense. It was an important request from our hospitals, doctors, and business leaders to allow them to do their jobs without the threat of a lawsuit, and as a result, it was one of the important bills the Utah legislature passed in their special session. We encourage Congress to take a similar approach,” he said.
Utah passed similar legislation in the April special session as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. SB3007, sponsored by Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, shields businesses from legal action if a customer or worker contracts coronavirus on their premises, so long as the business owner did not act negligently.
“The pandemic gives businesses a whole new set of circumstances to navigate,” said Cullimore. “You generally know what your risks are, but the virus gives us a lot of uncertainty that makes it difficult for businesses to operate.”
Cullimore says there was a fear among many businesses that the virus would create a whole new standard of liability that would open businesses up to a lawsuit. But, rather than giving businesses carte blanche to avoid legal action, Cullimore says he’s seen many step up to make sure customers and workers can be safe.
“We’ve seen an overabundance of caution. The market is doing what it can to show they are taking this seriously. This prevents frivolous claims in this environment,” he said.
Cullimore says he has talked with lawmakers from a few other states about his legislation but has not spoken with anyone in Congress.