A bill that provides protection for businesses and others against frivolous Covid-19 lawsuits was introduced by Arizona Senator Vince Leach (R-SaddleBrooke) on Monday.
“What we’re trying to do is give targeted protection with some reasonable liability protection for businesses, educational providers, the healthcare industry, government agencies, religious institutions…,” Leach said. “We’re trying to give everyone the assurance that if they’re following sensible precautions against this terrible threat, this virus that we have, that they won’t see an onslaught of nuisance lawsuits.”
The bill, SB1377, provides protection from reckless litigation for businesses and others who act in “good faith” to protect their customers, clients and patients from Covid-19.
Protection provided for in the bill would be temporary until Dec. 31, 2022. Under the legislation, a plaintiff would have to prove “clear and convincing evidence that a person or provider failed to act or acted with wilful misconduct or gross negligence” in order to win a civil suit, the proposed legislation states.
“The pandemic has really made businesses nervous as to what they have to do,” Leach said. “If they are taking reasonable precautions, they should have some targeted and limited protections.”
Responsible operators deserve protection
Businesses and other organizations have proven that they take the virus seriously, Leach said. They have shifted their business models, put up plexiglass shields, purchased personal protection equipment for employees, and followed guidelines for sanitizing and social distancing from the Centers for Disease Control.
Unfortunately, some have shut their businesses down indefinitely, Leach said.
“Some are shutting down just out of fear of runaway lawsuits, which we are trying to protect against,” he said.
Thousands of businesses relying on state to act
Leach and other state lawmakers started discussing a liability bill last session when the U.S. Congress failed to adopt protective legislation through the CARES Act. But Arizona lawmakers were unable to introduce their own bill last year when the legislative session was cut short due to the pandemic.
Since then, Leach and other legislators have heard from hundreds of constituents calling for a state-sponsored protection bill. Stakeholders like the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry worked with public groups and provided input to help put together a bill that was simple and straightforward, Leach said.
More than 70 chambers of commerce and business organizations representing every industry and corner of the state issued a letter of support to lawmakers Monday for introducing the legislation.
“While many of our member businesses have continued to operate throughout this pandemic and respond directly to the COVID-19 crisis, this period has also brought extraordinary legal uncertainty,” the letter states.
Passage of the SB 1377 would provide some reassurance that organizations will not be hit with “meritless civil litigation that is otherwise certain to derail our economic recovery,” it states and urges lawmakers to pass the bill..
Almost half of states now have covid liability protection laws
Currently, about 21 states and Washington, D.C. have passed some form of Covid liability protection.
Now, in Arizona, the bill must make its way through a host of committees in both houses and be approved on the House and Senate floors.
“I really want to thank the stakeholders that played a huge portion in this project and product,” Leach said. “Maybe we’ll get out of here with a 30-0 in the Senate and 60-0 in the House.”
To read the bill’s full text, go to: Covid-19 liability protection.
Organizations supporting the bill
More than 70 chambers of commerce, business advocacy groups, trade organizations and others signed the letter of support:
Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits
American Property Casualty Insurance Association
Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce
Arizona Association of Community Managers
Arizona Association of Health Plans
Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities
Arizona Automotive Wholesalers Association
Arizona Bankers Association
Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Arizona Charter Schools Association
Arizona Dental Association
Arizona Farm Bureau Federation
Arizona Health Care Association
Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association
Arizona Leading Age
Arizona Licensed Beverage Association
Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association
Arizona Manufacturers Council
Arizona Medical Association
Arizona Mining Association
Arizona Multihousing Association
Arizona Optometric Association
Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association
Arizona Restaurant Association
Arizona Retailers Association
Arizona Rock Products Association
Arizona Small Business Association
Arizona State Association of Physicians Assistants
Arizona Technology Council
Arizona Trucking Association
Associated General Contractors of America Arizona Chapter
Buckeye Chamber of Commerce
Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce
Chandler Chamber of Commerce
East Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance
Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce
Gilbert Chamber of Commerce
Glendale Chamber of Commerce
Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce
Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce
Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce
Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Greater Phoenix Economic Council
Greater Phoenix Leadership
Green Valley Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center
Health System Alliance of Arizona
Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce
Marana Chamber of Commerce
Mesa Chamber of Commerce
National Association of Industrial Office Properties Arizona Chapter
National Federation of Independent Business
Page Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce
Peoria Chamber of Commerce
Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce
Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce
Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce
Southern Arizona Home Builders Association
Southern Arizona Leadership Council
Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce
Southwest Veteran’s Chamber of Commerce
Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce
Tempe Chamber of Commerce
Tucson Metro Chamber
United Dairymen of Arizona
West Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance
Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce
Yavapai County Contractors Association