Lawmakers, lobbyists seek COVID-19 liability protections

Published: May. 15, 2020 at 10:01 PM CDT
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The pandemic has lawmakers and lobbyists fighting for Covid-19 related liability protections for businesses, and the medical community, who could be in danger of being sued as the economy reopens.

Eyewitness News Friday spoke with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to break down what proponents of the liability protection are looking for.

“We’ve got a survey from the U.S. Chamber that shows 40 percent of small businesses could go bankrupt in the next six months,” said Eric Stafford, vice president of government affairs at the Kansas Chamber.

Stafford said liability protection is important for businesses and workers during a lot of uncertainty while the economy reopens.

“At the end of the day, what we’re seeking from this is that businesses get stability in the legal climate as they want to re-open and welcome back their employees and customers in a safe manner.”

Stafford said with the fragile economy right now, business owners need to feel confident reopening their doors.

“As guidelines change as released by public officials, if you’re not required to have a screen one day at your place of business but then the next day you are, they won’t be held responsible unless there are blatant actions of disregard to protecting the public,” said Stafford.

The Kansas Chamber drafted a bill it’ll be bringing in front of the state senate judiciary committee on Monday. It says lawsuits regarding COVID-19 are prohibited if an individual doesn’t test positive for the virus.

“There are cases out there that have been filed where individuals are seeking damages where they haven’ tested positive, they’re just suing for emotional stress and discomfort,” said Stafford.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is urging congress to approve federal protections against frivolous lawsuits. In a statement he said civil liability protections should not be extended to businesses engaging in willful misconduct, reckless or intentional infliction of harm.

“It’s not saying you can’t sue but we’re just offering protections that if somebody does sue that there are standards that have to be met to show that the business or whoever was reckless,” said Stafford.

The Kansas Chamber proposal is retroactive to the first day of the governor’s emergency management declaration in March.

There are some groups who are asking for more guidelines so these businesses, medical facilities and churches don't become immune under this liability protection bill.

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