COVID-19 Enterprise Legal responsibility Protections Invoice Vetoed

Wednesday 17th February 2021

On November 30, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoed the controversial 1737 Act. The Republican-backed bill was passed by Pennsylvania legislature in November 2020 and expanded the reach of Governor Wolf’s May 6 ordinance that granted licensed or certified individuals liability protection to doctors caring for patients during COVID-19. The executive order does not protect practitioners from allegations of gross negligence, fraud, malice, or other willful misconduct. and does not protect nursing homes or other healthcare facilities from liability. House Bill 1737 would have temporarily extended civil liability protection to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, companies, manufacturers and other institutions, but like the Implementing Ordinance did not offer protection against claims for gross negligence or willful misconduct. In his November 30 veto, Governor Wolf stated that despite the benefits of the law, he withheld his signature because he believed the liability protection was too broad and would lead to negligence and disregard for public safety.

Nearly 80 associations representing schools, childcare workers and small businesses have backed the bill, according to the Wall Street Journal. The veto disappointed proponents, who viewed the legislation as a tightly coordinated and necessary response to the threat of frivolous lawsuits at an endangered time. In a November 20 press release, Curt Schroder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice noted, “The bill was drafted, debated and passed to protect the heroes of this pandemic while continuing to hold bad actors accountable for deliberate behavior or gross negligence for not following health instructions and guidelines. This sensible approach is correct for Pennsylvania. “Proponents of legislation fear that lawsuits will be brought against companies that challenge their efforts to comply with or fail to comply with safety and health guidelines. The question, however, is whether they need broad liability coverage to protect them from such litigation.

Governor Wolf expressed his condolences to the business owners in his veto statement, but expressed serious concerns about what he saw as overly broad coverage of the law. First, the bill primarily served a non-COVID-19 agenda and advanced business interests that predated the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill is divided into three sub-chapters. The first deals with liability protection for business development agencies, trustees and lenders to protect them from liability for the environmental impact of their activities, and the second deals with liability protection for agrotourism activities, i.e. activities related to farm tours or farm entertainment. Together they make up about 80% of the bill, and COVID-19 liability protection is only discussed in the third sub-chapter. In his declaration of veto, Governor Wolf expressed his concern that even the liability protection from COVID-19 is too broad. He wrote that the bill significantly expands that protection by limiting liability to a variety of companies including manufacturers, distributors, labelers and users of personal protective equipment, business services and insured providers. Protecting companies from liability in the broad sense envisaged in this draft law leads to inattention and disregard for public safety. “Governor Wolf noted,” Providing immunity to a company that does not strictly comply with public health rules does not ensure public safety. [or] its employees and is not in the public interest. “Governor Wolf’s stance has been described as anti-business, although he has continued to ensure that other laws and initiatives are in place to protect business owners from liability.

Policies to protect Pennsylvania businesses from frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits

Even without Bill 1737, there are other regulations in place to aid businesses in Pennsylvania and protect them from COVID-19-related lawsuits. First, the Federal Public Preparedness and Emergency Preparedness Act (“PREP”) protects individuals involved in the distribution and / or delivery of medical countermeasures such as antibiotics from tort in state or federal courts. The only people who are not protected are people who willfully violate COVID-19 security protocols. In addition to Governor Wolf’s May 6 ordinance granting licensed naturopaths in Pennsylvania liability immunity last November due to rising COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf announced new measures, including immunity from corporate civil liability who enforce this Health Mask Rachel Levines Mask Command. The protection would only extend to companies that are active in essential emergency services that “maintain their personal operations and are open to the public”. Finally, entrepreneurs also have normal tort law protections as potential claimants may struggle to demonstrate the essential elements of duty, injury and compensation for personal injury or death that result from contracting the COVID-19 virus from their interactions with a company that followed CDC health and safety guidelines.

Federal liability protection during the pandemic

In December, Washington legislators were working on a federal exoneration bill and there was a wide-ranging debate over corporate liability protection. The Senate Republicans insisted on taking comprehensive safeguards that the Democrats would not agree to. In the end, the draft law was passed on December 22nd, 2020 without taking into account the protection of corporate liability. Former Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said during an interview with Fox News that if there is another coronavirus relief bill after the first of the new year, he will push for corporate protection. Despite his commitment to protecting corporate liability, the next relief bill is likely to be passed without Republican involvement. President Joe Biden is focused on passing the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus plan, but has abandoned bilateral support and seeks reconciliation – a method of getting some tax and spending bills approved by majority vote in the Accelerate House and Senate. On February 3, the House passed a budget resolution, and on February 5, the Senate passed a resolution. That approval will allow Congress to advance the reconciliation that will allow Democrats to pass a COVID-19 relief bill without Republican support.

Since the federal legislature continues to work on the parameters of a COVID-19 aid law, the inclusion of the protection of corporate liability appears unlikely. Pennsylvania is likely to partner with other states in creating laws that regulate COVID-19 liability protection for business owners. Although Governor Wolf vetoed the House Bill in 1737, similar legislation is likely to follow and possibly become law.

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