Welcome
Daily Labor Report®

Red States to Get Blueprint on Limiting Business Virus Liability

May 5, 2020, 8:11 PM

Red states looking to shield businesses from liability amid the Covid-19 pandemic may soon get a template from an influential conservative group.

The American Legislative Exchange Council is crafting a model bill that would limit liability for businesses following health and safety regulations or guidelines designed to protect employees and customers against the virus, said Ronnie Lampard, an ALEC staff member who heads the group’s civil justice task force. The group’s membership includes scores of Republican state lawmakers, and GOP-majority state legislatures frequently look to ALEC models to help craft their bills.

The risk of liability lawsuits—both from employees and members of the general public who contract Covid-19—has been a major point of concern for businesses as state officials allow them to reopen from virus-related shutdowns. The ALEC effort comes as the White House and Republican congressional leaders are pushing for new business protections in the next round of federal coronavirus response legislation.

“There needs to be a measured approach, and there needs to be protection from certain liability,” Lampard said. “We want to say if the organizations and employers are complying with certain rules and regulations, those companies should be immune from certain liability.”

Not waiting for a model, North Carolina lawmakers addressed business liability in a bill that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed into law Monday. The law provides limited immunity for health-care providers as well as “essential businesses,” from lawsuits related to an employee or customer contracting the virus. The liability limits expire when Cooper’s Covid-19 emergency declaration is lifted.

The specific language of the ALEC model bill is still being developed, but Lampard said the protections likely wouldn’t apply to a business operating in a way that amounts to gross negligence or willful misconduct. The model could be finished and get task force approval within a few weeks or likely no later than ALEC’s July meeting, he said.

Lawmakers in at least a handful of states, like Florida, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, are already discussing business liability protections, Lampard said.

The ALEC proposal would be similar to a more general-purpose ALEC model, the Regulatory Compliance Congruity with Liability Act, Lampard said. At least nine states have enacted laws similar to that existing model, he said, including Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Marr in Atlanta at cmarr@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com

To read more articles log in. To learn more about a subscription click here.