State lawmakers searching for ways to help their economies to reopen during the Covid-19 pandemic are equipping businesses with shields against legal liability for claims related to contracting the illness.
At present, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming have enacted Covid liability shields via legislative action or through executive orders signed by their governors.
Similar legislation is being considered in many more states, as well as at the federal level, said attorneys Honore Hishamunda and Kevin M. Young of the Seyfarth Shaw law firm.
“While not a complete cure for pandemic-related litigation, these shields should help to manage the pain presented by a wave of Covid-19 litigation that is likely to continue for years to come,” the attorneys explained.
In general, these laws protect businesses (as well as their employees) from civil lawsuits related to actual or potential exposure to Covid.
However, the lawyers warn these laws do not protect willful, reckless, intentional or grossly negligent misconduct; and do not prevent employees from filing workers’ comp claims stemming from workplace exposure to the virus.
Hishamunda and Young also note that these laws vary in their details, scope and applicability.
Taken together, state liability shields protections and limitations mean that, as a general matter businesses will still face lawsuits related to potential or actual Covid 19 exposure, but will not be liable for claims arising from plaintiffs’ negligence.
The attorneys pointed out that businesses also may be able to use additional tools to contain liability, such as procedural prerequisites for plaintiffs filing suit, their own good faith efforts to comply with public health guidance or compliance with statutory posting laws.