The Wisconsin Legislature may consider legislation to stop frivolous lawsuits over possible exposure to the Covid-19 virus in schools and businesses.
The bill by Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) would provide a “safe harbor” liability exemption to business owners and others who own or rent a public space as long as they obey public health orders and are taking reasonable precautions to protect the public from the Covid-19 virus.
“With many businesses struggling due to the impacts of COVID-19, the threat of a frivolous lawsuit is the last thing they need while trying to rebound,” said Kapenga in a statement on Tuesday. “Most entities have adapted and taken precautions over the past six months to protect both their customers and employees. These businesses should not be living in constant fear of litigation for something that is beyond their control.”
The bill would also provide legal protection to schools, universities and even homeowners.
“As students around the state return to school this week, many schools are starting in a virtual environment,” Kapenga said. “For some districts across the state, this can be attributed to school boards fearful of being held liable for an increase in cases. This bill is needed to restore confidence, so our economy and our schools can return to a level of normalcy.”
Over a dozen states have enacted similar laws, according to Kapenga.
The proposed legislation is needed, according to John Schulze, Director of Legal and Government Affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin (ABC-WI).
“This is not about defending employers who recklessly or intentionally cause harm. This is about employers who are following the rules and doing right by their employees and the public,” said Schulze in an email on Tuesday. “We don’t want an ‘Open for Business’ sign to mean ‘open season’ on employers who are trying to do the right thing by restarting and rebuilding the state’s economy.”
The introduction of the legislation by Kapenga followed the publication of an op-ed by Schulze in RightWisconsin calling for protection from frivolous Covid-19 lawsuits. The bill is currently being circulated for co-sponsorship.
You can read the bill here.