From food to pharmaceuticals, chemicals to transportation and even toilet paper, Michigan manufacturers create the products that are essential to our daily lives. Through the COVID-19 crisis, many have stepped up to meet the need for vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants. To move forward confidently in uncertain times, manufacturers need assurances that their dedication and ingenuity in the face of a global pandemic will not be rewarded with unnecessary and punitive lawsuits.
As a leader in an expansive coalition comprised of business trade associations, school groups and health care providers, MMA has been proactively working with the Legislature to pass legislation that would protect businesses that have operated in good faith, taking reasonable actions to follow public health guidance, and producing vital products.
A pair of three-bill packages, House Bills 6030-6032 and Senate Bills 1022-1024, were introduced in both the House and Senate to shield employers from frivolous and baseless lawsuits arising out of COVID-19 while also extending Good Samaritan safeguards.
Specifically, the legislation introduced by Senator Lana Theis (R-Bright on), Senator Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), Representative Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), Representative Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming) and Representative Graham Filler (R-Ovid) would:
- Provide a safe harbor for businesses that follow public health guidance to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for their employees, customers and vendors.
- Prevent opportunistic lawyers from filing mass tort, class action, or frivolous individual lawsuits against a business by requiring proof of an actual injury from COVID-19.
- Place a reasonable limit on the liability exposure of anyone who makes, sells, distributes, or donates certain needed products to government entities, health care providers, first responders
- or essential businesses during the pandemic.
To be clear, this legislation will not protect bad actors who recklessly disregard a substantial risk or intentionally expose a person to the virus. Liability should continue to be imposed on those that know about defects that are likely to cause injury yet continue to make, sell or donate a product. But this legislation will protect the good actors from compounding today’s fragile economic conditions with COVID-19-related lawsuits.
Efforts continue through the summer to build support for these important employer protections in advance of potential action when the legislative session resumes in September.
Members may contact their legislators to let them know that local employers support HB 6030-6032 and SB 1022-1024.
Contact me for help lending your voice to this effort and to share your company’s experience.