(The Center Square) – As establishments across the country reopen to ever-changing health guidelines and regulations, business owners are looking to receive a dose of economic security through liability protections.
Garrick Taylor, executive vice president of Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told The Center Square that it is more prudent to think of liability protection as a safe harbor that ensures businesses, schools, nonprofits and other similar entities that are following public health guidance don't have to be in fear of frivolous lawsuits in the event that someone who visits their establishment later tests positive for COVID-19.
"We don’t want to risk a delay in the economic recovery over lawsuit fears," Taylor told The Center Square. "No one is talking about blanket immunity here. We’re seeking targeted, temporary protections. Any business that is just irresponsibly ignoring public health guidance should be held accountable."
While liability protection seems like a reasonable request to many, it has been difficult for businesses to garner support on the local or federal level.
"The trial bar is a powerful lobby on Capitol Hill and has demonstrated its ability to persuade members of Congress and their constituents by arguing that legitimately injured parties would somehow lose access to justice," Taylor said.
The Arizona House tried to provide a liability shield for businesses that would have required those who sue to show clear evidence that a business was grossly negligent, but this bill did not make it into law before the end of the legislative session, according to the Arizona Capitol Times.
Taylor shared that some businesses already have had to deal with coronavirus-related lawsuits. As more businesses resume operations, more employees are back to work and there are more interactions with consumers, so the concerns and fears of business owners are legitimate.
"Job creators should continue to urge the congressional delegation and, in particular, Sen. [Kyrsten] Sinema and Sen. [Martha] McSally, to ensure that a commonsense liability protection provision is included in the next COVID relief package," Taylor said. "It’s imperative if we’re going to accelerate the country’s economic recovery."