Four states have taken the initiative and passed laws stating protecting businesses from “civil liability” for COVID-related claims. One of the four states, North Carolina, provides immunity to many different “essential businesses,” such as grocery stores and restaurants. Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, however, offer immunity to anyone and everyone who followed proper practices and procedures and did not break any laws. States like Louisiana, Kansas, and Arizona are also considering bills to create similar liability protections. North Carolina approved a COVID-19 relief package that included a law protecting any businesses deemed “essential” when the state first ordered businesses to close or lessen their occupancy.
Protecting Businesses from COVID Claims
While the immunity covers almost all “essential businesses,” it cannot guarantee anything for regulatory actions, criminal charges or workers compensation claims, gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional physical harm. Businesses will be protected until emergency orders expire or are rescinded. North Carolina has begun the debate for whether or not this law is just. In the Tar Heel state, experts say this may be in effect for a long time as they see the immunity lasting all the way up to the complete re-opening of the state’s economy. However, many are not in agreement with this law and believe that people should be held accountable for any part they played in not keeping the virus at bay in their workplace. In nursing homes throughout the state, a Raleigh attorney claims “blatant disregard for standards of care have been reported.”
Difficulties of Making a Claim
Attorneys understand the need for business owners to be able to cover themselves, but they are of the mind that COVID claims are harder to prove than most may think. It would have to be proven where a patient contracted COVID-19, requiring expert witnesses and an investigation, which would be almost impossible to do in order to track where COVID was contracted. There may be a looming threat of someone trying to prove they contracted COVID-19 because of some precaution a business missed, but trying to get the necessary proof and the finances to fight the battle isn’t worth the hassle, in most cases. While the four states previously mentioned sought to cover all essential businesses, at least half the states in the country have made an effort to protect health care providers from falling prey to coronavirus patients hoping to make a claim simply because they contracted the virus from fellow patients. There is also the threat of anyone experiencing the slightest symptoms looking to sue for financial gain. While it is difficult to win a COVID claim, immunity from these claims is important as people fear for their safety amid an unknown virus.
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