At both the state and federal levels, NFIB has been fighting to protect small businesses from opportunistic lawsuits that take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, a bill recently passed in Pennsylvania to provide limited liability protection was vetoed this week by Gov. Tom Wolf.
Already, lawsuits have been filed against businesses alleging that exposure to COVID-19 on their premises caused illness, an assertion that’s certainly difficult to prove or disprove. But it is certain that any such lawsuit is expensive to defend at a time when small businesses can least afford it.
This year, NFIB PA joined more than 70 other organizations, including other business and nonprofit groups, as well as education and healthcare communities, to push for limited liability protection in the face of COVID-19. Many NFIB members responded to a call to action to ask policymakers to pass such a bill. That effort resulted in the passage by the General Assembly of HB 1737 in November.
HB 1737 was a critical step to protect those industries doing their best to comply with ever-changing guidance and operational challenges while working through the pandemic. The bill would have protected medical professionals on the front lines and manufacturers that retooled to make critical personal protective equipment, along with businesses, nursing homes, schools, colleges, and local governments. This provision for safe harbor from lawsuits would have been targeted and temporary, limited to COVID-19 related claims. It would not have protected bad actors who were careless or intentionally reckless and caused harm.
HB 1737 also contained a provision written by NFIB member and State Representative Barb Gleim (R-Cumberland) that would have protected farmers from lawsuits arising from agritourism activities, like apple picking, corn mazes, and Christmas tree cutting. NFIB strongly supported this measure as well.
NFIB will work to get these important priorities before legislators again next year so that they can be signed into law as part of an effort to help ensure the recovery of our small businesses.