One major concern for businesses as New Mexico and the country at large move toward re-opening the economy under state and federal COVID-19 safety guidelines is the lack of liability protection. If business owners make consistent good faith efforts to follow all public health guidelines to protect customers and employees, but are still at risk of lawsuits if someone contracts the virus and claims it occurred at a particular place of business, it will be difficult for many businesses to justify re-opening at all, and a wave of frivolous or opportunistic lawsuits might permanently shut down some that do open.
While still allowing for action to be taken against employers demonstrating gross negligence of safety practices and failing to adhere to state and federal public health requirements, legislation that would protect businesses from litigation for COVID-19 infections resulting from standard business operations will encourage faithful adoption and adherence to COVID-safe practices while keeping the economy moving. With already historic unemployment numbers and ongoing economic uncertainty, we can’t afford to slow recovery further by leaving businesses in a state of uncertainty regarding their legal exposure.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called for a package of legislation to counteract this concern for businesses, including four key elements of legislation:
1)The Coronavirus Liability Act: Protects businesses that follow government guidelines while operating in this uncertain environment with limited liability protection against COVID-19 exposure claims.
2) The Healthcare Provider Protection Act of 2020: Affords limited liability protection to healthcare providers and facilities who are on the front lines against claims arising out of COVID-19-related services.
3) The Coronavirus Securities Litigation Reform Act: Implements certain procedural requirements to protect against an onslaught of COVID-19-related securities lawsuits, given the extraordinary and unpredictable nature of this pandemic.
4) Various PREP Act amendments: Provides PREP Act liability protection to certain PPE and countermeasures that are necessary in the COVID-19 response efforts (hand sanitizer and certain disinfectants). Additionally, proposed amendments would provide PREP Act protection to donors of countermeasures and those who use them in accordance with government guidelines.
To support this effort, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce — in partnership with the New Mexico Chamber Executives Association, New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, and the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce — has called on New Mexico’s representatives in the U.S. House and Senate to take action on this critical issue as well.
You can read the full letter from the Chamber below: