McConnell’s “Liability Shield” Is a Weapon Aimed at COVID-19 Victims

Daniel Epps, associate professor of law


ast week, Senate Republicans unveiled the HEALS Act, their proposal to address the continued devastation that COVID-19 is wreaking on the country. The Act, a collection of discrete bills authored by various Senators, would have far-reaching consequences. One of the bills, Texas Senator John Cornyn’s SAFE TO WORK Act, would restrict lawsuits based on coronavirus exposure against employers, businesses, and many other potential defendants. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that the liability restrictions are a critical Republican requirement for further COVID-19 relief measures.

Senator Cornyn claims that his bill “would protect those acting in good faith from being sued into oblivion while ensuring bad actors who willingly put their patients, employees, or customers in danger will still be held accountable.” Employers and businesses no doubt are dealing with great challenges given these extraordinary circumstances. And it is sensible for legislators to seek a balance between accountability for bad actors who fail to take reasonable precautions and the threat of ruinous liability for employers and businesses doing their best. Yet the bill’s complex procedural requirements make any hope of accountability impossible. In fact, the bill actually encourages harmful behavior.

Read the full piece in Washington Monthly.

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