Negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats have stalled this week over the COVID-19 liability protections proposed for businesses, healthcare providers and schools in the $1 trillion Health, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools Act released Monday by Senate Republicans.
The liability portion of the bill, crafted by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) would shield healthcare providers and facilities from coronavirus-related liability claims for five years. It also would limit liability for personal injuries arising from COVID-19 exposure at businesses, schools, colleges and nonprofit organizations.
Democrats and their constituencies are criticizing the proposal on the grounds that it does not require employers, healthcare providers and organizations to adhere to any one set of standards for protecting workers, patients, residents and customers.
“It’s very vague in terms of the standards, Yona Rozen, associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO, told The Hill. “There are voluntary standards, state standards, local standards. They make it almost impossible for somebody to bring a claim.”
Other critics argue that Coryn’s proposal goes far beyond the legal protections being implemented within some states, including New York.
“[Sen. Cornyn’s bill] gives corporations license to behave recklessly with impunity in the face of a pandemic,” said Peter Knudsen, a spokesperson for the American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Several long-term care industry advocates have expressed support for limited immunity from liability for COVID-related activities.
“We support reasonable liability protections for senior living communities and their staff, who are on the front lines and have been working closely with our state partners as they communicate with their state lawmakers on this issue,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living in June.