Providing Certainty in Uncertain Times
Since the start of the pandemic, the coronavirus has had a devastating effect on our state. The virus has caused shutdowns and disruptions, and it has changed the way we live our lives. Despite the uncertainty caused by the virus, countless Missourians have stepped up and answered the call to serve those in need. Whether it was the health care professionals who were exposed to the virus as they cared for their patients or the numerous manufacturers who retooled their lines and produced life-saving personal protective equipment (PPE), the heroic efforts of these individuals and countless others allowed our state to navigate the trials of the pandemic.
To help protect those who stepped up and continue to provide vital services, the Missouri Senate gave initial approval to legislation providing COVID-19 liability protections to small businesses, first responders, health care professionals and certain manufacturers. Senate Bill 51 prevents businesses from being sued if someone contracts COVID-19 on their premises, unless the plaintiff can prove that the business was acting recklessly or with willful misconduct. Likewise, health care providers are shielded from COVID-19 lawsuits by the same “recklessness and willful misconduct” standard. Manufacturers who stepped forward to produce products they don’t normally make, such as a T-shirt company that made masks, are protected from product liability claims, except in extreme cases. In addition, SB 51 protects religious institutions from pandemic-related lawsuits unless the plaintiff can prove intentional misconduct.
Through this legislation, I believe we are providing Missouri businesses with the confidence they need to reopen their doors, while also ensuring our doctors, nurses, first responders and manufacturers of critical PPE are not punished for their good-faith efforts to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Simply put, Missourians should not be punished for trying to do the right thing.
Following 15 hours of debate, the Missouri Senate gave initial approval to the COVID-liability bill in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 3. This legislation has been a priority for many in the State Capitol, and I am hopeful that we can get it in the governor’s desk in the near future. From where I stand, Missourians who stepped up and served their communities in a time of need shouldn’t live in fear of a pandemic-related lawsuit. Not only does this legislation provide legal certainty and protection to our state’s small businesses, health care workers and manufacturers, but I believe it also has the ability to help people get back to work, provide for their families and return to a sense of normalcy during these uncertain times.
It is an honor to be your state senator, and my door is always open to your concerns, questions or comments. Please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-2757 or visit my web page at www.senate.mo.gov/riddle.