ATRA states its disappointment in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that certain public nuisance climate lawsuits can proceed in state court.
Legislation Best Suited to Address COVID-19 Liability
Executive orders may provide relief but likely face future court challenges
Trial lawyers already are filing lawsuits against businesses providing products or services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It will be months, if not years before these lawsuits go to trial, and much will be forgotten in that time.
Governors across the country have issued executive orders offering limited liability protections in an effort to protect certain frontline workers, like those in manufacturing and health care. A new white paper issued by the American Tort Reform Association explains why legislative action is needed to protect critical workers from liability in the long run.
“Executive orders will likely meet court challenges, as gubernatorial authority to grant liability protection is uncertain,” ATRA President Tiger Joyce said. “Legislation will provide the long term relief necessary and is best equipped to survive potential future judicial challenges.”
Health care workers, hospitals and manufacturers have quickly shifted resources to fight an unknown virus, but will face liability in the future as new information is discovered that simply is not available today.
Congress has provided limited liability protection for volunteer health care workers through the CARES Act, for manufacturers of N-95 masks through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and for some health care workers through the PREP Act.
“While we applaud Congress for the actions they have taken and hope to see additional steps, much of the responsibility to protect these frontline workers will fall on state legislatures” Joyce said.
While further action from Congress on liability issues is uncertain, state legislatures can pursue solutions to protect today’s front line workers from tomorrow’s liability. ATRA’s white paper outlines policy prescriptions to address COVID-19 liability, including legislation:
- Limiting the liability of businesses that design, manufacture, sell, or donate protective equipment, medical devices, drugs, or other products for use by health care providers and facilities (and possibly the general public) in response to a declared public health emergency;
- Providing health care providers with greater discretion to make decisions about medical care without the fear of liability during a pandemic or other health emergency; and,
- Prohibiting lawyers from suing employers on behalf of individuals who did not develop COVID-19, were asymptomatic, or experienced common flu-like symptoms.
“Months and even years will pass before cases are tried, at which time information and clarity will be available that we simply do not have at this time,” Joyce said. “The urgency and necessity we face today will be forgotten. I urge state legislatures to seek legislative solutions to support health care providers, businesses, and their employees who are responding to the pandemic now.”
Business leaders and tort reform advocates have welcomed changes that will limit punitive damage awards in Missouri, John Lewis of the St. Louis Record writes.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has an opportunity to redirect policy and push back on activist attorneys’ attempts to improperly expand public nuisance law. With Covid-19 public nuisance lawsuits coming, Tiger Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association, discusses the importance of the climate change lawsuit.
The Missouri legislature passed S.B. 591 to amend the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) and the standards by which punitive damages are awarded.
ATRA is grateful to both President Trump’s administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for prioritizing liability protections for health care workers, manufacturers and business owners.
West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael says legislation is being drafted to ensure liability protections to protect small business owners and workers, especially health care workers who are protecting our state’s citizens amid the Coronavirus pandemic, writes Chris Dickerson of the West Virginia Record.
Today, West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael announced he is drafting legislation which aims to protect West Virginians from liability related to the COVID-19 pandemic. ATRA supports legislative action to […]
Louisiana lawyers spend millions soliciting their services and alarming citizens.
Senate Majority Leader Prioritizes Employer Liability Protection Shield
During a pandemic, where contagious people crowd spaces shared with the uninfected or the healthy, concern over liability is heightened, writes Brandi Buchanan of Courthouse News Service.
As businesses reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, tort reformers are mobilizing to enact federal and state protections against an anticipated plethora of personal injury lawsuits, writes Amanda Bronstad of Law.com.