Senate

Senate GOP proposing five-year shield from coronavirus lawsuits

Senate Republicans are preparing to offer a five-year shield from coronavirus lawsuits as part of a forthcoming relief proposal.

The proposal would be retroactive from December 2019 through 2024, or the end of an emergency declaration issued by the Department of Health and Human Services if that is later, according to a draft summary obtained by The Hill.

The proposal, which is currently being reviewed by the White House, would give federal courts jurisdiction over lawsuits related to personal injuries or medical liability tied to coronavirus infections, preventing lawsuits in state courts, where business groups have warned about uneven laws.

Institutions including businesses, colleges, schools and churches would only be legally liable if they didn’t make “reasonable efforts” to follow public health guidelines and “committed an act of gross negligence or intentional misconduct,” according to the summary.

Health care facilities and workers would also only be legally liable for “gross negligence and intentional misconduct.”

Liability reform is considered a top priority for Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in the upcoming negotiations over Congress’s fifth coronavirus package.

McConnell is expected to unveil the GOP proposal next week and “socialize” it with members of his conference, who have been scattered across the country during the last two weeks.

McConnell, speaking in Kentucky over the recess, repeatedly warned that coronavirus legislation will not pass without liability protections in it.

“It must have, must, no bill will pass the Senate without liability protection for everyone related to the coronavirus. …. Nobody should have to face an epidemic of lawsuits on the heels of the pandemic that we already have related to the coronavirus,” McConnell said during a stop in Kentucky this week.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, added that the GOP proposal would be “relatively narrow and relatively short.”

“It’s not just a business protection, it’s also school protection, a health care provider protection,” Blunt said.

But Democrats have appeared skeptical of the forthcoming GOP proposal, questioning if it would prevent workers from being able to sue over unsafe working conditions as more businesses begin to reopen.

“We think there’s a path to talk about protecting businesses and workers and customers who come in, and that is our OSHA provision. But again, let’s hear what everybody has to say,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters last week.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the GOP proposal, which he noted he had not seen, a “liability shield for CEOs.”

Tags Charles Schumer Coronavirus coronavirus relief COVID-19 Liability shield Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Roy Blunt

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