Legislation that will help protect businesses and healthcare providers against frivolous COVID-19-related claims is on its way to Governor Reeves for his signature. BIPEC led a coalition of business groups to pass what is known as the “Mississippi Back-to-Business Liability Assurance Act.” This important act will preserve both justice and economic recovery in Mississippi by enacting reasonable safeguards against a potential surge of coronavirus lawsuits. We believe that this legislation is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, COVID-19 liability bills in the country. You can view it HERE.
There are a growing number of COVID-19 related lawsuits across the United States. Some personal injury lawyers view individuals exposed to COVID-19 as a vast new pool of plaintiffs, and healthcare providers, businesses, non-profits, charitable, and religious organizations that aid in the response effort or provide essential services as defendants to cast blame. The first lawsuits targeting healthcare providers, employers, retailers, and other businesses have been filed. Many more are to come.
It is good public policy to give our courts clear direction and to distinguish valid claims from meritless lawsuits in this unprecedented time. Many of Mississippi’s employers are concerned that they may not survive the pandemic and are dealing with a crisis through no fault of their own. They are doing everything possible to remain open to serve their customers. We commend legislative leaders for taking this action. Below is a quick synopsis of what the legislation does.
- Who is covered?
A person is defined as someone who attempts, in good faith, to follow applicable public health guidance.
- What is the definition of a person?
Person means an individual, state, political subdivision, association, educational entity, for-profit or non-profit entity, religious organization, or charitable organization.
- What is the definition of public health guidance?
Public health guidance means any written guidance related to the COVID-19 State of Emergency, issued by an executive agency or regulatory agency of the federal government or an executive agency of the State of Mississippi.
- Who is not covered?
Any defendant shown by clear and convincing evidence to have acted with actual malice or willful or intentional misconduct is not covered.
- Who has liability protection?
Premises: This means any physical place serving a commercial, residential, educational, religious, governmental, cultural, charitable, or health care purpose.
Businesses: The bill protects businesses (essential and non-essential) through the definition of “person.”
Product liability: The legislation provides protections to anyone that designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes, or donates personal protective equipment in response to COVID-19.