Bill provides protection against frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits

Above: Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels Business News | 29 Jan, 2021 |

A bill that provides protection for businesses and others against frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits was introduced by Arizona Senator Vince Leach (R-SaddleBrooke) on Monday.

“What we’re trying to do is give targeted protection with some reasonable liability protection for businesses, educational providers, the healthcare industry, government agencies, religious institutions…,” Leach said. “We’re trying to give everyone the assurance that if they’re following sensible precautions against this terrible threat, this virus that we have, that they won’t see an onslaught of nuisance lawsuits.”

Senator Vince Leach

The bill, SB1377, provides protection from reckless litigation and COVID-19 lawsuits for businesses and others who act in “good faith” to protect their customers, clients and patients from Covid-19.

Protection provided for in the bill would be temporary until Dec. 31, 2022. Under the legislation, a plaintiff would have to prove “clear and convincing evidence that a person or provider failed to act or acted with wilful misconduct or gross negligence” in order to win a civil suit, the proposed legislation states.

“The pandemic has really made businesses nervous as to what they have to do,” Leach said. “If they are taking reasonable precautions, they should have some targeted and limited protections.”

Responsible operators deserve protection from COVID-19 lawsuits

Businesses and other organizations have proven that they take the virus seriously, Leach said. They have shifted their business models, put up plexiglass shields, purchased personal protection equipment for employees, and followed guidelines for sanitizing and social distancing from the Centers for Disease Control.

Unfortunately, some have shut their businesses down indefinitely, Leach said.

“Some are shutting down just out of fear of runaway lawsuits, which we are trying to protect against,” he said.

Thousands of businesses relying on state to act   

Leach and other state lawmakers started discussing a liability bill last session when the U.S. Congress failed to adopt protective legislation through the CARES Act. But Arizona lawmakers were unable to introduce their own bill last year when the legislative session was cut short due to the pandemic.

Since then, Leach and other legislators have heard from hundreds of constituents calling for a state-sponsored protection bill. Stakeholders like the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry worked with public groups and provided input to help put together a bill that was simple and straightforward, Leach said.

More than 70 chambers of commerce and business organizations representing every industry and corner of the state issued a letter of support to lawmakers Monday for introducing the legislation.

“While many of our member businesses have continued to operate throughout this pandemic and respond directly to the COVID-19 crisis, this period has also brought extraordinary legal uncertainty,” the letter states.

Passage of the SB 1377 would provide some reassurance that organizations will not be hit with “meritless civil litigation that is otherwise certain to derail our economic recovery,” it states and urges lawmakers to pass the bill..

Almost half of states now have covid liability protection laws 

Currently, about 21 states and Washington, D.C. have passed some form of Covid liability protection and protection against frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits.

Now, in Arizona, the bill must make its way through a host of committees in both houses and be approved on the House and Senate floors.

“I really want to thank the stakeholders that played a huge portion in this project and product,” Leach said. “Maybe we’ll get out of here with a 30-0 in the Senate and 60-0 in the House.”

To read the bill’s full text, go to: Covid-19 liability protection.

Organizations supporting the bill 

More than 70 chambers of commerce, business advocacy groups, trade organizations and others signed the letter of support:

Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits

American Property Casualty Insurance Association

Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce

Arizona Association of Community Managers

Arizona Association of Health Plans

Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities

Arizona Automotive Wholesalers Association

Arizona Bankers Association

Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Arizona Charter Schools Association

Arizona Dental Association

Arizona Farm Bureau Federation

Arizona Health Care Association

Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association

Arizona Leading Age

Arizona Licensed Beverage Association

Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association

Arizona Manufacturers Council

Arizona Medical Association

Arizona Mining Association

Arizona Multihousing Association

Arizona Optometric Association

Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association

Arizona Realtors

Arizona Restaurant Association

Arizona Retailers Association

Arizona Rock Products Association

Arizona Small Business Association

Arizona State Association of Physicians Assistants

Arizona Technology Council

Arizona Trucking Association

Associated General Contractors of America Arizona Chapter

Buckeye Chamber of Commerce

Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce

Chandler Chamber of Commerce

East Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance

Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce

Gilbert Chamber of Commerce

Glendale Chamber of Commerce

Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce

Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce

Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce

Greater Phoenix Economic Council

Greater Phoenix Leadership

Green Valley Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce  & Visitor Center

Health System Alliance of Arizona

Home Builders Association of Central Arizona

InvisionAZ

Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce

Marana Chamber of Commerce

Mesa Chamber of Commerce

National Association of Industrial Office Properties Arizona Chapter

National Federation of Independent Business

Page Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce

Peoria Chamber of Commerce

Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce

Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce

Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce

Southern Arizona Home Builders Association

Southern Arizona Leadership Council

Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce

Southwest Veteran’s Chamber of Commerce

Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce

Tempe Chamber of Commerce

Tucson Metro Chamber

United Dairymen of Arizona

Valley Partnership

West Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance

Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce

Yavapai County Contractors Association

 

This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.

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