You’ve seen these businesses on your drive home, on your way to pick up groceries, or perhaps on a walk through your neighborhood. Maybe it was your local bookstore or favorite restaurant. Thousands have closed their doors permanently due to the pandemic and related shutdowns. In fact, according to one report, 60 percent of businesses that closed during the pandemic won’t reopen.
But barriers remain for those businesses that have managed to stay open. On top of all the other challenges facing business owners today—including complying with ever-changing reopening guidelines and regulations—businesses also have to worry about a flurry of potential virus-related lawsuits. For some, this threat is enough to delay reopening altogether.
As long as businesses are taking appropriate steps to keep their employees and customers safe, they shouldn’t have to worry about opportunistic and expensive coronavirus lawsuits.
That’s why states across the country are passing coronavirus liability protection. Extending this protection to businesses will help the economy recover, get Americans back to work, and give business owners peace of mind as they reopen and get back to serving their communities.
As organizations that are tapped into their local communities, state think tanks understand how important liability protection is for businesses in their state. Through op-eds, research, virtual events, and other outreach, state think tanks are encouraging policymakers to adopt this important policy. Below are the states that passed or are advancing legislation to protect businesses from needless coronavirus lawsuits.
In May 2020, the Alabama Policy Institute released its RESTORE Alabama plan, a blueprint to get Alabama back on track after the pandemic. In that plan, API encouraged policymakers to adopt a bill that would protect businesses, churches, nonprofits, and others from frivolous and costly lawsuits related to the coronavirus. Without this legislation, API argued there would be a wave of lawsuits that would prevent Alabama’s economy from getting back on its feet. On February 12, 2021, the Alabama Legislature took API’s advice. Lawmakers passed—and the governor signed—a bill that protects businesses from trivial lawsuits.
In January 2021, the Alaska Policy Forum released a policy brief that argued coronavirus business liability protection is a key step in restarting Alaska’s economy. APF also released a video that highlighted how business liability protection is essential for Alaska. In addition, the organization held a webinar on the importance of liability protections that featured experts from the Beacon Center and The Buckeye Institute.
The Arizona Senate passed a bill that ensures people acting in good faith to protect public health will not be liable for damages in any civil action.
In June 2020, the Arkansas Governor signed an executive order that exempts businesses from needless coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The Colorado Legislature is considering several bills that would protect individuals and businesses that comply with coronavirus guidelines.
The Connecticut Legislature is considering a bill that would shield businesses, nonprofits, and other entities from lawsuits related to the pandemic.
In March 2021, the Florida Legislature passed legislation that protects businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The Georgia Governor signed the “Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act” in August 2020—legislation that is designed to protect businesses and healthcare providers from lawsuits related to the spread of COVID-19.
On July 2, 2020, North Carolina passed coronavirus liability protection for businesses within the state.
In August 2020, the Idaho Governor signed the “Coronavirus Limited Immunity Act,” which gives businesses and people immunity from civil lawsuits if they “comply with a statute, rule, or lawful order of a government entity. ”The Idaho Freedom Foundation noted it is worrisome that the measure isn’t limited to the ongoing issues surrounding the coronavirus. The law could apply to any disaster or emergency declared by the governor in the future.
The Illinois Legislature introduced a bill that would free businesses from civil lawsuits related to the coronavirus if that business is complying with state and federal regulations.
The Indiana Governor signed a law that provides coronavirus liability protection for businesses in February 2021.
In June 2020, the Iowa Governor signed legislation that provides immunity to businesses, medical facilities, and nursing homes to coronavirus-related lawsuits, except under specific circumstances. The Tax Education Foundation of Iowa noted this reform will protect businesses, healthcare workers, and other institutions from frivolous lawsuits as a result of the pandemic.
In June 2020, Kansas passed a law that protects businesses from coronavirus-related claims if that business was complying with public health directives.
In April 2021, Kentucky passed a law that provides liability protection for the state’s businesses.
Louisiana was the first state to pass COVID-19 liability reform. The legislation shields businesses, government agencies, trade show organizers, and event planners from claims related to COVID-19. In their report, “Preserving Life and Liberty in Public Health Emergency,” the Pelican Institute noted the legislation will hasten economic recovery in the state. Pelican also added it may be the best COVID-19 liability protection laws in the country.
In October 2020, the Michigan Governor signed the “COVID-19 Response and Reopening Liability Assurance Act,” which provides immunity from coronavirus-related liability to businesses complying with coronavirus laws and regulations.
The Minnesota Legislature is considering a bill that would provide coronavirus liability immunity to individuals, including business owners.
The Mississippi Governor signed the “Mississippi Back-to-Business Liability Assurance and Health Care Emergency Response Liability Protection Act,” in July 2020. The legislation is designed to protect businesses and individuals from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The Missouri Legislature is considering two liability protection bills for businesses in the state.
In February 2021, Montana passed a law that prevents businesses, healthcare providers, and nonprofits from being liable for any coronavirus-related lawsuits, as long as they take reasonable precautions to protect public health.
Nebraska lawmakers are considering adopting the “COVID-19 Liability Protection Act”—legislation that protects individuals and businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
In August 2020, the Nevada Governor signed SB4—legislation that grants most businesses immunity from lawsuits from customers or employees who contract COVID-19 while on their premises.
New Jersey is considering two bills that protect businesses from damage claims resulting from COVID-19.
The New York Legislature is considering a bill that protects “covered entities” (including businesses) from liability related to the contraction of COVID-19.
North Carolina passed a law that provides limited immunity to businesses from liability for claims based on the transmission of the coronavirus
In May 2020, The Buckeye Institute released a policy memo that called on policymakers to provide businesses and workers with immunity from COVID-19 related lawsuits as long as they are taking reasonable steps to keep Ohioans healthy and safe. On September 14, 2020, the Ohio Governor signed legislation that provides businesses, schools, and frontline workers with critical liability protections from coronavirus lawsuits.
In May 2020, the Oklahoma Governor signed legislation that will protect businesses and individuals from civil liability related to the spread of the coronavirus. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs noted the bill states that a person conducting business in Oklahoma “shall not be liable in a civil action claiming an injury from exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19 if the act or omission alleged to violate a duty of care of the person or agent was in compliance or consistent with federal or state regulations, a Presidential or Gubernatorial Executive Order, or guidance applicable at the time of the alleged exposure.”
The South Carolina Senate passed a bill to protect South Carolina businesses from predatory COVID-19-related lawsuits. Palmetto Promise Institute has been working to raise awareness of the need for protection for innocent businesses during the pandemic. The Institute noted they are excited for this victory for business and look forward to the South Carolina House following the Senate’s lead.
In February 2021, South Dakota enacted a coronavirus liability shield for the state’s businesses.
The Texas Legislature is considering several pieces of legislation that address coronavirus liability protection.
In June 2020, the Utah Governor signed legislation that protects Utah businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The West Virginia Legislature passed the “COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act,” which prohibits certain claims against businesses arising from COVID-19 exposure.
In February 2021, the Wisconsin Governor signed a bill that provides businesses with immunity from civil liability related to the spread of COVID-19.