Sen. Dave Schatz’s Legislative Column for Feb. 4, 2020

Protecting Those on the Frontlines of the Pandemic

Since the start of the pandemic, countless Missourians have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve their fellow citizens. Whether it was the doctors and nurses on the frontlines protecting their patients or the numerous small businesses who altered production and created life-saving personal protective equipment (PPE), the valiant efforts of these individuals and numerous others allowed our state to push forward throughout the course of the pandemic.

During this pandemic Missouri health care workers and charities should be encouraged to step up and serve their communities as best they can without fear of frivolous lawsuits. Missouri businesses are struggling — they need certainty that they can safely reopen their doors, provide livelihoods and meet customers’ needs without getting dragged into court and bankrupted by costly legal battles.

To help protect those who stepped up and continue to provide vital services during these trying times, the Missouri Senate gave initial approval to legislation providing COVID-19 liability protections for small businesses, first responders, health care professionals and certain manufacturers. Senate Bill 51 says that unless a business acted recklessly or exhibited willful misconduct, they cannot be sued if someone contracts COVID-19 on their premises. Likewise, health care providers are shielded from COVID-19 liability lawsuits by the same “recklessness and willful misconduct” standard. Manufacturers who stepped forward to produce products they don’t normally make (a T-shirt factory that made face masks, for example) are immune from product liability suits, except in extreme cases. Under SB 51, individuals pursuing legal action in cases of product liability or alleged exposure to the virus would have up to two years to file their case in court.

Through this legislation, we are providing Missouri businesses with the confidence needed to reopen their doors, while also ensuring our brave first responders, health care providers and manufacturers of critical PPE will not be punished for their good-faith efforts to help combat the pandemic. Simply put, you shouldn’t be punished for trying to do the right thing.

It is an honor to serve our community in the Missouri Senate. If you have any other questions or concerns about state government, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at — we are honored to serve you.