COVID liability laws are topping the 2021 priority lists for legislators in at least three states.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed Senate Bill 30 into law last week, implementing COVID-19 immunity measures for assisted living communities, specialty care assisted living communities and other facilities and healthcare providers licensed by the state Department of Public Health or Department of Mental Health.
SB30 also provides civil immunity for businesses, educational entities, churches, governmental entities and cultural institutions — absent “wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct” — from actions taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The liability provisions are retroactive to March 13, 2020, and run through Dec. 31.
“While the impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the country and around the world, we remain committed to helping Alabamians and Alabama businesses get back on their feet and our state moving forward,” Ivey said in a statement. “We are ensuring that our state will continue to grow our diverse economy, and we are protecting our existing businesses from any frivolous lawsuits due to COVID-19.”
A bill before the Missouri Legislature would provide COVID liability protections to assisted living communities and nursing homes and their frontline healthcare workers, as well as other workers and settings, in an effort to save them from “opportunistic lawsuits filed due to COVID-19,” according to sponsor state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville). Those protections do not apply to “recklessness or willful misconduct.”
SB 51 was identified as a “critical priority” for the state. Luetkemeyer said the bill “strikes the appropriate balance of holding truly bad actors accountable while ensuring business owners are able to safely reopen and not fear lawsuits in shutting them down.”
“This legislation will provide Missouri’s small businesses the confidence to reopen so our economy can thrive again, while also ensuring our brave first responders and healthcare heroes will not be punished for their good-faith efforts to combat the pandemic,” Luetkemeyer said in a statement. “Our state’s medical professionals and first responders have worked long and difficult hours, putting themselves and their families at risk, rendering care during the pandemic. These people truly are heroes, and they should not worry about getting sued for doing their duty.”
The bill was adopted by the Senate following 15 hours of debate.
In Nebraska, Sen. Tom Briese (R-Albion) introduced the COVID-19 Liability Protection Act, which provides broad immunity for assisted living communities and other businesses facing lawsuits connected with the coronavirus pandemic.
Opponents say Nebraska already has barriers to frivolous lawsuits, whereas proponents say it will help the state recover from the economic fallout from COVID-19. As with similar measures, there are exemptions for incidents of “gross negligence or willful misconduct.”
Protections would be effective immediately and apply one year following the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.