For two years, people have lived with a virus that has brought grief and loss to many families. In addition, while the virus spread across the country, some businesses failed to protect their workers and others. As a result, people began to file COVID-19 lawsuits charging employer liability, and the number of those suits has grown.
Rules that were designed to protect people from the virus became part of daily life, but breaking these rules then became a huge problem. Careless actions, which can result in people becoming ill, can be the basis of a personal injury claim.
Workers and others realized that they were not safe as they went about their daily lives. Many people lost their jobs. Others stopped shopping or even became paralyzed with fear. Overall, COVID-19 greatly affected business and healthcare as more people got sick.
As COVID-19 spread, workers’ compensation cases and personal injury lawsuits became more common. As a result, various states passed laws to protect companies from responsibility, beginning in 2020 and on into 2021. These laws prevent lawsuits against businesses.
The bills passed by the states were often similar, but let’s look at a few states and their specific laws about COVID-19.
In February 2021, lawmakers in Alabama passed Senate Bill 30, which made the owner of a business immune from legal action. This protection also covers healthcare facilities, schools, churches, cultural establishments or government entities. The immunity doesn’t apply if reckless or willful actions caused the damage.
Healthcare facilities would also be protected from civil COVID-19 lawsuits if visitors become ill after visiting those in long-term care units or acute care. This includes nursing and assisted living facilities. That bill, introduced in 2021, is still pending.
Alaska laws protect healthcare providers, businesses and public healthcare workers from lawsuits. Companies must obey the laws and provide a safe place to work. If they don’t follow the rules, they may no longer have protection from employer liability.
Arizona law protects healthcare workers, schools, employers and religious organizations against lawsuits. The law doesn’t ban claims but raises the bar on the ability to sue. The entities in question must follow the guidelines and regulations to be protected.
The Arkansas governor signed orders that are in effect while the pandemic exists. These rules protect health workers, businesses and their employees from lawsuits. This protection doesn’t include acts of intentional misconduct and deliberate or willful, reckless behavior. Another bill that is still pending would grant lawsuit immunity to offices and individuals from customers exposed to COVID-19 at the business.
California law already protects health workers from lawsuits in an emergency. For example, the law protects a doctor who stops to help someone in an accident. The law covers hospitals, dentists and healthcare workers. A pending bill protects those working in universities from lawsuits.
Another California law grants liability protection for all schools of higher learning. A third bill that’s still pending protects businesses if they follow local and state health laws and regulations. However, the bill won’t shield them from legal action in cases of willful misconduct, discrimination or gross negligence.
On Jan. 7, 2022, a California appeals court let a wrongful death lawsuit go forward when the husband of a woman working at See’s Candy caught COVID-19 from his wife and died. The court ruled that protection from COVID-related lawsuits applied only to workers. It didn’t include their family members.
In Colorado, laws are pending to protect people and businesses from COVID-related civil lawsuits. This law doesn’t provide protection from lawsuits dealing with wanton and willful acts, gross negligence and omissions.
In 2020, the Connecticut governor signed a bill to protect healthcare facilities and workers against civil lawsuits. However, immunity against legal action does not apply to those with gross negligence, false claims, willful misconduct or fraud. Pending legislation under House Bill No. 5125 extends the protection to businesses, universities, nonprofits and others.
Florida passed a bill protecting government entities, businesses, churches and schools against COVID claims. If someone files a COVID lawsuit, they have to get their doctor's signature. The doctor’s affidavit says that the employer's lapses were responsible for the infection and its damage.
If the court finds that the employer or business owner acted in good faith, the business owner is not liable. Healthcare providers are immune from responsibility under Senate Bill 74. Filing a lawsuit isn't possible if the healthcare provider can’t locate the necessary supplies, such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
Unlike Michigan and many other states, Maine has not enacted legislation to protect businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits. For that reason, businesses and individuals need to know that COVID-19 lawsuits and personal injury claims can proceed in the state.
In October 2020, two bills became law in Michigan. The first, House Bill 6030, prevents claims against a person, business, nonprofit, school or government entity, but the protection only exists if the business complies with existing regulations.
The second bill, House Bill 6031, protects business workers who get the coronavirus and want to file a lawsuit. The business must be in compliance with existing COVID-19 protection standards. House Bill 4501 amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Michigan.
The relief from employer liability does not extend to all circumstances. Lawsuit protection disappears if negligence or intentional or reckless acts take place.
Senate Bill 512, introduced in the Minnesota legislature in 2021, is still pending. The bill would protect healthcare facilities, nursing homes and pharmacies. The protections won't apply if there is reckless or intentional behavior. Sanctions and cash penalties in the law also supply retroactive protection to the institutions.
House File 688 was also introduced to protect people from liability if they own or operate a property where an infection happens. Any protection from the bill falls off if the owner/operator is grossly negligent. The law would also be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021.
Montana’s governor signed Senate Bill 65 into law on Feb. 10, 2021. The law gives business owners and other parties a defense against those filing COVID-19 lawsuits. In addition, it provides immunity if someone becomes infected and dies on their premises.
The owner/operator must obey government guidelines. They lose employer liability protection if there is gross negligence or an intentional act.
In 2020, Nevada passed a bill, SB4, that protects a business from liability if someone suffers an injury or dies from a COVID infection contracted on their property. However, the company must hold to state, local and federal standards. Protections fall off if the business acts in a neglectful way.
SB4 does not protect nursing facilities, hospices, hospitals and skilled nursing care. The bill also excludes schools in all categories from preschool, kindergarten and grades one through 12, including charters, school districts and universities.
A battle is raging in Nevada over COVID-19 lawsuits filed against a nursing home. The plaintiffs are suing a nursing home where 30 patients died during the pandemic. The Nevada facility is also coming under fire over seven wrongful deaths.
The nursing home contends that the same federal law which protects vaccine manufacturers protects them. The facility, where 100 residents and 100 staff members were positive for the coronavirus, says the claims are unfounded.
The defense does not argue about the negligent acts. Instead, it uses the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP). This act shields a company fighting a public health emergency. The act also covers COVID-19 lawsuits as of 2020.
By using the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, the nursing home can extend the legal process to avoid more lawsuits.
In New Jersey, the governor signed Senate Bill 2333 into law. This bill protects healthcare facilities and workers from lawsuits when treating COVID-19 patients. A pending bill would remove protections from nursing homes and other assisted-care facilities where many deaths occur.
Across the states, these bills share common terms and concepts. The laws provide freedom from employer liability unless reckless or deliberate acts are involved. If that’s the case, it’s still possible to file a COVID-19 employer liability lawsuit or personal injury claim. In some situations, the business must prove it cannot get protective equipment.
Sometimes business owners let their private opinions affect the way they run their business. When that happens, the business may not follow COVID-19 rules. That’s when any injured party can file a COVID-19 lawsuit against the business.
If you have experienced a personal injury because of the coronavirus, you may be able to get the compensation you deserve. We don’t believe that laws should protect those who cause injury to another person. In the COVID-19 crisis, the laws don’t protect everyone. The rules meant to keep businesses from paying for their mistakes don’t always apply. Let Accident.com help you get the legal facts you need. Connect with us online now and get started.
Read the second part of this blog post here.
Review the infographic which shows states that allow Covid lawsuits against employers, the main statistics on how Covid affected the labor market, and the wave of workers' compensation claims in 2021.
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