Businesses demand shield from COVID-19 liability suits

Fears are mounting among businesses of a tidal wave of lawsuits by workers and consumers blaming employers for exposing them to COVID-19 – but so far, few such cases have been filed, according to Reuters.

Businesses are pressing lawmakers to shield them from liability in such cases. However, some legal experts say the threat of liability is exaggerated, because in most cases it would be difficult for someone to prove where they were infected.

“Those cases haven’t materialized, and I doubt they will,” David Vladeck, who teaches civil procedure at the Georgetown University Law Center, said at a Senate hearing last week.

As of last week, only 45 of 1,018 coronavirus-related lawsuits were personal injury or medical malpractice cases against businesses, Reuters reported. Twenty-eight of those 45 lawsuits were against Princess Cruise Lines. The remainder were against three other cruise lines, two meat-processing companies, Walmart, a senior living facility operator, two care centers, a hospital and a doctors’ group, according to Reuters.

The issue has divided Congress, with Democrats insisting on another stimulus package and Republicans demanding protection for businesses against lawsuits.

With some state and local governments easing lockdown restrictions, a liability shield could give businesses the confidence to reopen. Protections wouldn’t be available for companies guilty of gross negligence, recklessness or willful misconduct.

The coronavirus has infected more than 1.4 million people and killed at least 85,000 in the US so far.

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