Lawmakers speed up COVID-19 liability protections for businesses

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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are speeding up the process to pass COVID-19 liability protections for businesses.

This means Hoosiers wouldn’t be able to sue Indiana companies if they think they got the virus at the business as long as certain conditions were met.

“It provides some certainty,” said Michael Ripley, the vice president of healthcare and employment law for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is one of the biggest advocates for COVID-19 liability protections for businesses.

“Taking this issue off the table really gives the business community, hey, we don’t have to worry about this, we are not going to be sued unless we do something that is really egregious and that’s really important for Indiana and the economy as a whole,” said Ripley.

As it stands now, the bill would protect companies from lawsuits regarding COVID-19 as long as those businesses don’t act with gross negligence or willful misconduct.

“I’m a lawyer and I don’t understand those terms,” said State Sen. Greg Taylor, the Senate Minority Leader.

Taylor said the bill needs outline exactly what that means. He would like the language to require companies follow CDC and local health official guidelines.

“We need to make it clear to the people that people who don’t follow the guidelines will not be protected and that’s what my amendment would do,” Sen. Taylor.

“We clearly identify that this does not infringe on an employee’s workman’s comp coverage protection,” said State Sen. Mark Messmer, the Senate Floor Majority Leader. “It also does not side step any requirements for Occupational Health and Safety Rules and regulations and laws that protect Hoosier workers.”

Messmer said the bill is designed to keep employees employed in Indiana. He said just the cost of a lawsuit process before the case goes to trial could put some Hoosier companies out of business.

“So, this is really a jobs protection bill that protects the people that he’s trying to protect,” said Messmer.

He said next week they’ll likely add protections for COVID-19 products too like masks, gowns and ventilators made in Indiana.

“They need to have some protection as well,” said Sen. Messmer.

We will continue following this bill as it moves through the process.

Lawmakers hope to have it passed before the March Madness tournament.

There is also a version in the Indiana House of Representatives.

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