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Coalition asks Congress for ‘temporary and targeted’ liability relief legislation

Groups hope to protect businesses, dental practices during COVID-19 pandemic

May 27, 2020

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA and other stakeholders are urging Congress to “enact temporary and targeted liability relief legislation” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect businesses.

In a May 27 letter, the coalition — led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — told lawmakers that many organizations are currently working “around the clock to get our nation through this pandemic” but worry that “despite doing their best to follow applicable guidelines, they will be forced to defend against an onslaught of lawsuits, the prospect of which is a deterrent to re-opening” and noted many small businesses are “one lawsuit away from closing for good” absent a targeted safe harbor.

To keep this from happening, the groups are asking Congress to quickly enact temporary liability protections for the following:

• Businesses, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions that work to follow applicable public health guidelines against COVID-19 exposure claims.
• Health care workers and facilities providing critical COVID-19-related care and services.
• Makers, donors, distributors and users of vaccines, therapeutics, medical devices, and certain personal protective equipment and other equipment critical to the COVID-19 response.
• Public companies targeted by “unfair and opportunistic COVID-19-related securities lawsuits.”

In addition to being temporary, “we believe that these liability protections should be limited in scope and preserve recourse for those harmed by truly bad actors who engage in egregious misconduct,” the groups said.

“The need for liability protections and relief is clear,” the letter concluded. “Several governors and state legislatures have already implemented COVID-19-related liability protections for key sectors in their states, but a uniform national response is necessary. Now is the time for Congress to take strong action to stop a growing wave of lawsuits from getting in the way of what we all want and need: healthy citizens and a strong economy.”

Follow all of the ADA’s advocacy efforts in response to the pandemic at ADA.org/COVID19Advocacy.