Majority Floor Leader Says Lawmakers Need to Fix Hole in Indiana Law
Senator Mark Messmer promised NFIB members here in Indiana that he will push for liability reform when it comes to COVID-19 and small businesses. Right now, many small business owners across the state fear that their customers and employees could sue them if they get COVID-19, even if they did everything they could to protect them against the virus. Sen Messer, a small business owner himself, recognized that one frivolous lawsuit could put a small business out of business.
Messmer said that the state senate will caucus next week to come up with a plan to protect small business owners against frivolous lawsuits. Here’s the problem: since lawmakers have already gaveled out of session, they can’t call themselves back in for a special session to deal with the issue. To date, Governor Holcomb has not dealt with the issue of liability for small businesses in an executive order. Without an order, small businesses must wait until the legislature passes liability protection, and unfortunately, only the Governor has the power to call a special session. As a result, small business liability protection must wait until the next legislative session, which starts January 2021. On Tuesday, Sen. Messmer pledged to write his own bill to protect small business owners when it comes to COVID-19 and frivolous lawsuits and said he will introduce it right away when session starts in January. He said he also wants to deal with the loophole that is shutting lawmakers out of the Capitol to deal with that issue.
Joe Sergio is very grateful for Sen. Messmer’s efforts. As the owner of Polar Clean, which uses dry ice blasting to clean large manufacturing equipment and buildings, he’s concerned about getting sued when it comes to COVID-19. His employees go into all sorts of different plants and workplaces to clean, and Sergio makes sure they are healthy, have PPE, and follow cleaning and disinfecting procedures at the office. However, what happens if one of them gets COVID-19 somewhere else and brings it into the office? “I can see it flipping really quick and lawyers getting really excited about a paycheck. Even if you’re careful and diligent, it’s still hard to protect yourself from COVID-19. Many people don’t even know they have it. Even if you do everything right, you could get infected, and could get sued. I’m trying to keep my employees paid and working and my doors open. The last thing that I need to worry about is a lawsuit,” said Sergio.
One of Sergio’s employees cleans out a raw product storage tank with dry ice.
A recent NFIB survey found that more than 70% of small business owners are worried about liability claims increasing. “As small business owners across Indiana re-open their doors to the public and try to get their small businesses back from the brink of disaster, it is imperative that Indiana lawmakers establish protections for those small business owners from the threat of lawsuits. There are trial lawyers out there who are eager to make a quick buck. We need to stop them from exploiting the already damaging effects of COVID 19,” said NFIB State Director in Indiana, Barbara Quandt. “Seven state have already passed protections for small business owners, including Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, North Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. Indiana should be the eighth state to enact such important legislation.”
Another one of Sergio’s employees uses a dry ice blaster to clean out an energy center at an ethanol plant.