Civil immunity in the era of COVID19

The Santa Clarita Valley Business Journal
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Justin R. Wilmers

Poole Shaffery & Koegle

Introduction

With the recent unveiling of the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” one thing is clear — the states will “call their own shots” as to when and how to reopen.

Despite governmental authority to reopen, businesses will undoubtedly face potential COVID-19 tort liability including personal injury and even wrongful death claims, which may thwart any viable path to economic recovery. As a result, local and federal legislators have proposed measures aimed at limiting the liability of business owners for COVID-19 related claims.

Federal legislation

At the federal level, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) announced they were working on an independent bill that would provide civil liability protections to businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. 

State and local legislation

Many states have taken the issue into their own hands. Specifically, in California, a letter by the Civil Justice Association of California was sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom seeking broad litigation protection for private entities performing essential services during the current State of Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Best practices for reopening

Until broad litigation protections are passed, businesses will inevitably face risks associated with COVID-19 tort liability when reopening. However, even in the absence of statutory immunity, businesses can take steps to minimize these risks including the following:

Maintaining written workplace health and safety protocols; 

Mandate social distancing protocols for workers and customers;

Limiting access to common areas; and

Regularly sanitizing the workplace.

Further, every business should be familiar with the applicable guidelines and regulations in their local jurisdiction as well as those provided by the CDC, OSHA, and WHO. 

The attorneys at Poole Shaffery & Koegle, LLP remain ready and prepared to help your business minimize the risks faced by COVID-19 related tort claims upon reopening.  

Poole Shaffery & Koegle LLP. headquarters are located at 25350 Magic Mountain Parkway, Second Floor, in Santa Clarita. You can reach the firm by calling (661) 290-2991 and more information can be found at www.pooleshaffery.com.

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