Governor expands special session to include liability protections
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
During his COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Governor Mike Parson expanded the current special session to include a proposed bill on liability protections.
The bill would provide protections for health care providers, manufacturers, businesses, schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations against lawsuits related to COVID-19.
"None of these groups should be penalized for their efforts to respond to a declared state of emergency," Gov. Parson said. "They must be able to continue operating and serving the public without risk of unnecessary and frivolous claims."
There are three main provisions of the bill. One includes liability protection for health care workers who provide necessary care related to the declared state of emergency. Another is products liability protection for anyone who designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes or donates products in direct response to the state of emergency. The third is premises liability protection for exposure claims related to the state of emergency.
While she said protections for businesses that are following coronavirus guidelines may be warranted, State House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said "a blanket exemption that also shields bad actors from legal liability will encourage reckless behavior and make a crisis that already has spun out of control far worse.”
The Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys shared the dissatisfaction with the proposed bill.
"Our lawmakers should be enacting policies to protect the public against spreading the virus," said MATA Immediate Past President Brett Emison, "not protecting irresponsible businesses from accountability when they fail to follow recommended guidelines."
Not everyone felt that way though. Several state organizations congratulated Gov. Parsons on his actions to protect businesses.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the state can't afford to wait to protect businesses from lawsuits.
"As we fight this pandemic and continue our economic recovery, we need to make sure we are protecting businesses, schools and health facilities from the growing threat of opportunistic COVID-19 litigation," said Daniel Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business Brad Jones agreed.
"On top of all the other struggles the small business community has had to endure over the past six months, they shouldn’t have to worry about being wrongfully sued,” Jones said.
Gov. Parson said the state senate could take up a technical session on the bill when it reconvenes Friday morning, but nothing was set in stone.