Hospitals And Small Businesses Call For Pandemic Liability Protections

As America Works To Safely Reopen, Hospitals, Small Employers, And Business Associations Join Senate Republicans’ Push For Liability Protections Against Frivolous Lawsuits


“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) are working on legislation to expand liability protections for businesses as they begin to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic…. McConnell has called expanded liability protections the ‘red line’ for Republicans on the next round of coronavirus relief legislation. The business community is pushing Congress to pass new legal protections amid concerns that they could face a myriad of lawsuits as they begin to reopen.” (“McConnell, Cornyn Working On Bill To Expand Liability Protections For Businesses,” The Hill, 5/12/2020)

  • “Republicans are demanding that any new bill include protections for business from what conservatives have called frivolous and opportunistic lawsuits as states and companies begin to reopen, a proposition that Democrats say they oppose.” (USA Today, 5/11/2020)

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “A second epidemic of frivolous lawsuits could follow the actual pandemic and crush our recovery before it begins. Already, more than two-thirds of independent business owners say they are specifically worried about a legal liability minefield getting in the way of re-opening. Already, plaintiff’s lawyers have begun filing hundreds of COVID-related complaints in courts across the country. This is exactly the kind of hostile environment that could take our re-opening and recovery from challenging to downright impossible. So the Senate is going to act. Senate Republicans are preparing a major package of COVID-related liability reforms to foster our economic recovery. This package, which Senator Cornyn and I are spearheading, will extend significant new protections to the people who have been on the front lines of the response and those who will be on the front lines of the re-opening.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/12/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “Strong legal protections are the right move. For doctors, nurses, and hospitals. For workers who want their jobs back. For small business owners who are struggling to stay open. For nonprofits that have helped the vulnerable. And for taxpayers, who want their money to finance a real national rescue and not the biggest trial lawyer bonanza in history. Senate Republicans are going to continue to develop this legislation. It’s going to be a red line for us in any future coronavirus legislation. The administration has already stated its support for action on this issue as well.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/12/2020)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): “We simply cannot allow a flood of frivolous lawsuits to harm our incredible healthcare workers or stunt our economic recovery. As we speak, I am working with colleagues on legislation to address the anticipated lawsuit bonanza. Let me be clear. Not all lawsuits are created equal. Without a doubt, there will be legitimate claims as a result of reckless wrongdoing in the wake of this pandemic. Those are the types of cases we want to make sure are heard…. Future legislation should include liability protections for our frontline workers and small businesses that are complying with the very government regulations designed to protect against the spread of the virus…. My colleagues and I have been in discussions about the best way to do this, and we are actively developing a proposal that I hope will gain bipartisan support. There are fair and reasonable ways to deal with this. We have seen this before. This is not a novel concept. Whether it is the response to the Y2K paranoia around the turn of the century or the attacks of 9/11, there are many more examples where Congress has, on a bipartisan basis, responded to a national emergency and provided these sorts of commonsense legal protections.” (Sen. Cornyn, Congressional Record, S.2334, 5/11/2020)

  • SEN. CORNYN: “Imagine you are a nurse who is being sued by the family of a patient who tragically passed away at your hospital. Even though you acted in good faith and you took every precaution to save the life of the patient, you could get pulled into a nightmarish legal fight over a case that ends up having no merit in the first place. Let's say you are a small business owner who closed your doors at the start of the pandemic, but then you applied for the loans, and you have done everything in your power to stay afloat until you could reopen. When that time comes, you take every precaution. Your employees wear masks, you reduce the number of customers so as to provide for social distancing, you regularly clean your store, and you have hand sanitizer available for all employees and customers. But then somebody says that they contracted the virus in your store and that they are going to sue you. Well, I have no doubt that, unless we provide for some limitations, there will be businesses that will say: Why bother? Why take on the risk? It is just not worth it.” (Sen. Cornyn, Congressional Record, S.2334, 5/11/2020)


‘Hospitals Argue The Liability Implications From The Coronavirus Are Immense Without Greater Protections’

“Hospitals are warning they will be slow to restart elective procedures like knee surgeries and colonoscopies without assurances from Congress they won’t get sued by patients and their own workers if they are infected by the coronavirus during those visits…. Some hospitals say the legal uncertainty is making them wary to resume elective procedures — an expansive category includes non-lifesaving surgeries, as well as care for heart conditions and cancer…. Hospitals argue the liability implications from the coronavirus are immense without greater protections.” (“Hospitals At Center Of Fight Over Liability Protections In Coronavirus Relief Bill,” Politico, 5/11/2020)


Schools And Universities Will Also Need Protections If They Are To Eventually Reopen Successfully

SEN. McCONNELL: “K-12 schools, colleges, and universities right now are completely uncertain about the fall. If we want schools to reopen this fall, we’ll have to create the conditions to make that possible.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/12/2020)

Jennifer C. Braceras, Independent Women’s Law Center director: “[A]s Brown University President Christina Paxson explains in the New York Times, the educational, psychological, and financial risk of not reopening — to students, to higher education generally, and to the local economies — is also exceedingly high…. Without legal immunity, colleges are damned if they do and damned if they don’t…. Those that reopen will no doubt face suits from those who get sick.” (Jennifer C. Braceras, Op-Ed, “To Reopen Colleges, Block COVID-Related Lawsuits,” The Hill, 4/28/2020)


Over Two-Thirds ‘Of Small Business Owners Are Concerned About Liability Claims Increases’

“An NFIB survey released this week showed that nearly 70% of small business owners are concerned about liability claims increases …” (NFIB, Press Release, 5/06/2020)

Karen Harned, Executive Director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center: “As small business owners across America begin the process of reopening, it’s imperative that we establish protections from the threat of lawsuits that exploit the already damaging effects of COVID-19. According to a recent NFIB survey, nearly 70% of small business owners are concerned about increases in liability claims when reopening their businesses. We urge Congress to address these Liability Protection Principles so that our nation’s small businesses who have fought to survive over the course of this pandemic can get back to work without fear of costly legal battles.” (NFIB, Press Release, 5/06/2020)


National, State And Regional ‘Groups That Represent Restaurants, Retail, Travel, Tourism, Hotels And Other Businesses Are Calling For Congress To Provide A Liability Shield For Businesses Once The Economy Reopens’

“Industry groups that represent restaurants, retail, travel, tourism, hotels and other businesses are calling for Congress to provide a liability shield for businesses once the economy reopens. The groups, including the U.S. Travel Association, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Airlines for America and the American Gaming Association, sent a letter to congressional leadership on Monday urging liability protections in the next coronavirus relief bill.” (“Restaurant, Travel, Retail Industries Call For Liability Shield For Businesses,” The Hill, 5/11/2020)

117 NATIONAL, STATE, AND REGIONAL BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS: “As customer-centric industries whose employees interact with the general public in physical locations on a constant basis, we write in support of Congressional efforts to create a targeted and limited safe harbor from liability for companies that implement federal public health guidelines related to the transmission of COVID-19. Many of our member companies are providing necessary goods, services and opportunities for Americans to return to work, and have taken extraordinary measures to protect the safety and well-being of our guests and employees while following government health guidelines in good faith. We fear that without Congressional action, the threat of litigation –even for those companies that have followed federal public guidelines, but employees or customers still contract COVID-19 due to the extremely contagious nature of the virus –will mire our recovery and negatively impact the economy writ large by injecting great uncertainty and risk into the ability of our businesses to operate during the pandemic.” (117 Business Associations, Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Rep. McCarthy, and Sens. McConnell and Schumer, 5/11/2020)

  • “Evolving information about COVID-19and differences in federal, state, and local guidelines, however, have created legal uncertainty. As a result, companies that diligently implement safety protocols and rely in good faith on public health recommendations and guidelines nonetheless face the prospect of substantial litigation based on virus transmission. These suits do nothing to reduce transmission of COVID-19 but threaten the ability of companies to provide much-needed services and opportunities for Americans to return to work. Consumer-facing businesses should be able to rely on the safety guidelines and reopening parameters issued by experts without the threat of liability for following that guidance.” (117 Business Associations, Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Rep. McCarthy, and Sens. McConnell and Schumer, 5/11/2020)
  • Letter signed by: Airlines for America, American Gaming Association, American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), American Society of Travel Advisors, Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), Global Business Travel Association, Home Care Association of America, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), International Franchise Association, Latino Hotel Association, National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, National Association of Theatre Owners, National Council of Chain Restaurants National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, U.S. Travel Association, Alabama Restaurant & Hospitality Association, Alabama Retail Association, Alaska Hotel & Lodging Association, Alliance of Wisconsin Retailers, Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association, Arizona Retailers Association, Arkansas Grocery and Retail Association, Arkansas Hospitality Association, Association of Lodging Professionals, California Hotel & Lodging Association, California Retailers Association, Casino Association of Indiana, Cincinnati Hotel Association, Coalition of Franchisee Associations, Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, Connecticut Lodging Association, Connecticut Retail Merchants Association, Deadwood Casino Association, Delaware Hotel & Lodging Association, Elevanta, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Florida Retail Federation, Franchise Business Services, Franchise Management Advisory Council, Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association, Hospitality Maine, Hospitality Minnesota, Hotel Association of New York City, Hotel Association of Washington DC, Idaho Lodging & Restaurant Association, Idaho Retailers Association, Illinois Casino Gaming, Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association, Iowa Gaming Association, Iowa Retail Federation, Kentucky Retail Federation, Louisiana Casino Association, Louisiana Retailers Association, Lowcountry Hospitality Association, Maryland Association of Chain Drug Stores, Maryland Food Industry Council, Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association, Maryland Retailers Association, Massachusetts Lodging Association, Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, Michigan Retailers Association, Minnesota Retailers Association, Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association, Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri Tire Industry Association, Montana Lodging & Hospitality Association, Montana Restaurant Association, Montana Retail Association, National Franchisee Association, Nebraska Hotel & Lodging Association, Nebraska Retail Federation, Nevada Hotel & Lodging Association, Nevada Resort Association, New Hampshire Retail Association, New Jersey Hotel & Lodging Association, New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, New Mexico Retail Association, New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association, North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, North Dakota Retail Association, Ocean City, MD Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, Pennsylvania Retailers Association, Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C., Retail Association of Maine, Retail Association of Nevada, Retail Council of New York State, Retailers Association of Massachusetts, Rhode Island Hospitality Association, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, South Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, South Carolina Retail Association, St. Louis Area Hotel Association, Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association, Texas Hotel & Lodging Association, Texas Retailers Association, Tri State Jewelers Association, Unique Lodging of Ohio, Utah Tourism Industry Association, Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association, Washington Hospitality Association, Washington Retail Association, West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association, Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association, Wyoming Lodging & Restaurant Association



Related Issues: Economy, Small Business, COVID-19