Suing Over COVID-19

Politicians debate granting legal immunity to businesses where COVID-19 spreads. In the absence of statutory immunity, a business is liable for damages it causes through its negligence. That is a very low standard of care. It means if there is carelessness, there is liability. Certainly, if the business owner knowingly allows an infected person to come back to work, and that person infects others, the business would be liable for the damages. But even if the business simply doesn’t implement and enforce social distancing and other protective measures, that is evidence of negligence.

Those in favor of immunity are concerned that without it, businesses will hesitate to reopen, damaging the business and the overall economy. They may seek blanket immunity, applicable even in cases of egregious misconduct. Businesses and their insurance companies have a better chance of success with legislation granting qualified immunity. For example, they may seek a law that grants immunity unless the business engages in reckless or gross misconduct that leads to infections.

A middle standard would fall between negligence and recklessness. You may see legislatures grant heightened immunity to businesses unless the plaintiff proves business misconduct, by clear and convincing evidence, that fell substantially below generally accepted standards.

Here is a list of states that have granted immunity to businesses:

Proponents of this legislation suggest that trial lawyers are plotting to file frivolous lawsuits over COVID 19 infections. This smear is employed both to influence jury pools and to sway legislatures.

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