“Highlights with Hegeman” for the Week of June 21: Protecting Our Small Business Owners

Part of getting through, and moving past, a pandemic includes making sure small businesses are not adversely affected. Unfortunately, we lost too many great businesses during the past year due to either a direct correlation to the coronavirus or because of economic reasons that also relate to the pandemic. While some of these could not have been avoided, there are measures that could be taken to protect those who stepped up when our state needed them the most.

Throughout this year’s regular legislative session, lawmakers spent time on a measure aimed at keeping frivolous lawsuits from getting filed against business owners in relation to COVID-19. While no legislation is perfect, I believe Senate Bill 51 goes a long way toward curbing excessive legal actions against our state’s businesses.

Under this legislation, a person would have to prove clear and convincing evidence that an individual or entity engaged in reckless or willful misconduct that caused actual exposure to COVID-19. In addition, they would have to prove the exposure caused personal injury to the person. Medical professionals would also be included, if SB 51 were to become law. The same rules would apply here. Someone would have to prove reckless or willful misconduct on the part of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional in order to sue.

Most importantly, to me, SB 51 makes sure no church or religious organization could be held liable without proving intentional misconduct. We saw so many churches get shut down over the past year due to fears over having more than six or eight people in a room at the same time. As critical as our small businesses and medical professionals are, it was vital to many of my colleagues and me to make sure our churches are protected from unnecessary lawsuits stemming from the pandemic.

A lot of time and energy was placed on not only getting SB 51 to the finish line, but also to see to it the proposal does its best to protect necessary aspects of our lives without forbidding people from taking whatever steps they feel necessary to right a wrong. I hope the governor agrees and signs SB 51 into law in the near future.

As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is (573) 751-1415, my email is dan.hegeman@senate.mo.gov and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.