More than Half of Missouri Small Business Owners Don’t Expect Local Economy to Recover Until 2022 or Beyond
A recent survey of Missouri small business owners by NFIB, the state’s leading small business organization, found that while an overwhelming majority want to re-open in the next 30 days, many are worried about the threat of unfounded lawsuits.
“As Missouri small business owners begin the process of reopening, it’s critical that they have protection from the threat of lawsuits. Small business owners face enough obstacles from the coronavirus crisis,” said NFIB State Director in Missouri, Brad Jones. “According to our survey, 69% of Missouri small business owners are concerned about increases in liability as they re-open. Let’s not wait for lawmakers in Washington D.C. to act. I am hopeful that the governor will call a special session so that Missouri state lawmakers can address the important issue of liability protection so our small business owners who have so far survived their pandemic can get back to work without the fear of costly legal battles.”
Here are the key findings from Missouri’s recent survey of NFIB members.
- 69% of Missouri small business owners are very concerned or moderately concerned with increased liability.
- 65% of Missouri small business owners are very concerned or moderately concerned about getting customers back.
- 92% of Missouri small business owners feel that the state should lift the non-essential and stay-at-home orders immediately or within the next 30 days.
- 96% of Missouri small business owners are not at all concerned or somewhat concerned about the government lifting restrictions too early.
- Just 40% of Missouri small business owners think their local economy will get back to near pre-crisis levels of economic activity this year. 39% of Missouri small business owners think that won’t happen until sometime in 2021, while 16% of Missouri small business owners think it won’t be until 2022 or later.
- 79% of Missouri small business owners applied for the PPP or EIDL loan program and while 88% have received their PPP loan already, just 7% of Missouri small business have applied and received their EIDL loan and grant, with another 9% receiving an EIDL grant but not a loan and another 9% have not received either an EIDL loan or grant.
Below is NFIB’s set of Liability Protection Principles designed to address the legal issues of most concern to small business and which should be addressed in any legislation Congress passes.
- The Workers Compensation system should be the exclusive vehicle employees who suffer serious physical injury from COVID-19 at work use to adjudicate their claims.The workers compensation systems developed in each State are best-situated for determining whether a worker contracted COVID-19 at work and is eligible for compensation as a result.
NFIB recommends that Congress specifically provide that employer liability for physical injury due to COVID-19 be adjudicated under state workers compensation laws to the extent such liability exists. No separate federal or state tort liability should be permitted for employee injury claims due to the virus.
- Businesses should be protected from liability to customers and other third-parties unless those customers or parties prove the business knowingly failed to develop and implement a reasonable plan for reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and that failure caused the injury.When reopening a business both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control offer guidelines for keeping workplaces safe. In addition, state health departments may also have suggested procedures. These guidelines are instructive; however, they are often not legally binding and should not be used as a “get into court” free card for the unscrupulous trial attorney. Business owners should develop and implement plans to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in the customer and third-party “facing” locations of their business.
NFIB recommends that business owners be shielded from liability from lawsuits brought by customers or other third parties unless the customer or third party proved that the business knowingly failed to develop and implement a reasonable plan to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by customers and other third parties and that the failure caused the injury.
- Permitted lawsuits should be limited to persons who experience a serious physical injury due to COVID-19 resulting in hospitalization.Although there is still much to be learned about COVID-19, one thing scientists do know is that it affects different people in different ways. Indeed, we continue to hear of people who test positive for the virus but experience few if any symptoms.
NFIB recommends that Congress grant businesses immunity from coronavirus-related litigation except in cases of gross negligence that causes the plaintiff serious physical injury resulting in hospitalization or death. No claims for emotional injury due to contracting the virus should be permitted.
- Fines should be imposed on unscrupulous trial attorneys bringing frivolous COVID-19-related lawsuits.Small business owners do not have in-house counsel and the vast majority cannot afford to hire lawyers to defend their business and reputations in court. Trial lawyers know this and, as a result, small business owners are easy targets for the plaintiff’s attorney looking for a quick payout. Trial attorneys should be penalized – not incentivized – for bringing a frivolous COVID-19-related lawsuit.
NFIB recommends that Congress impose sanctions on attorneys found to bring a frivolous COVID-19-related claim. In addition to sanctions, the plaintiff’s attorney should be required to pay the defendant’s attorneys’ fees and other costs relating to the litigation.