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Should Companies Face Civil Liability if Workers or Customers Contract COVID-19?

Posted by Unknown | May 07, 2020 | 0 Comments

In a sign that COVID-19 continues to be politicized, the question of whether companies should be held liable if employees or customers contract the virus on their property has resulted in two polls – that show opposite results.

One poll shows 64% of Americans are opposed to granting blanket immunity to businesses that are reopening. Another poll indicates 61% of Americans favor granting such immunity to protect businesses.

How does one reconcile these numbers?

The American Association of Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) released the poll numbers showing a vast majority of people did not favor granting blanket immunity. The Association engaged Hart Research to poll about 1,200 bipartisan voters. Hart Research is a Democratic polling organization.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released the poll that shows most people favor granting immunity to businesses. The Chamber used the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies to poll 800 voters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that companies need such protection so he's making it a Republican priority to develop a broad liability shield in the next COVID-19 relief bill  He might get that through the Senate, but he must also get it through the House. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear that she's not on board with such a blanket immunity when he said "the House has no interest in diminishing protections for employees and customers."

This should serve as a stark reminder that whichever way you lean politically, COVID-19 is still a health issue. The fact that two separate organizations are asking voters the same question about liability just shows the high level of concern overall that the virus will continue to ravage people across our country.

However the political issue falls out, as workers and customers return to work and malls, they must continue to be extremely vigilant about protecting their own health.

We have previously addressed what employees and businesses should do as more companies reopen. 

We also discussed the importance of taking care of yourself when returning to work.

If the blanket immunity is granted, there will probably be some limitations on companies that flagrantly flaunt CDC guidelines related to reducing the chance of spreading the virus. But we won't know until Congress pushes through the next relief bill.

We hope that there will be some additional relief for employees and customers who are negatively impacted through no fault of their own. We will continue to monitor this developing issue.

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