As retail shops, restaurants, and bars gradually reopen, many business owners fear customers and employees may sue them for contracting Covid-19 on their premises. To ease their fears, Congress has been working on passing a new bill that provides immunity to Coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Many politicians support this new initiative as a wave of lawsuits against business owners will not be beneficial for our economy. It could lead us into a “second pandemic.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY expresses this predicament could negate the relief efforts they have been implementing to keep our economy from collapsing.

While many lawmakers agree this concern is legitimate, others believe it is unfounded. An analysis conducted by the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, shows there is no real evidence to support that claim. In this analysis, only 45 of the 1,018 coronavirus-related lawsuits were against businesses. Plus, half of those claims were against Princess Cruise Lines (Data is dated May 13, 2020).

Furthermore, many reputable lawyers say the chances for a petitioner to win a lawsuit are minimal. John O’Neal, an attorney from Greensboro, NC, said, “the plaintiff has a huge burden of proof and a financial burden that is really going to cost.” In order words, this individual needs to prove the businesses’ negligent actions caused him or her (or their loved ones) to contract the virus and die from it. Since the Coronavirus has a long incubation period, this claim can be hard and extremely costly to prove.

For these reasons, Counselor O’Neal and many attorneys do not believe this bill is needed. Instead, they believe this liability protection bill will cause many businesses to loosen safety measures because they are insulated from legal attack.

Richard Bell, a New York trial attorney, said, “When you start giving immunity to businesses for wrongdoing, you start encouraging the wrongdoing.” During a press conference, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “we have every reason to protect our workers and our patients. We should not be inclined to be supporting any immunity from liability.”

List of states who have passed immunity

Despite all the information revealed, more than half of the states have passed laws granting health care providers some form of immunity. The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) declares these policies are necessary to protect the COVID-19 response efforts. Consequently, the governor of North Carolina has extended its immunity bill to a larger group of essential businesses, such as grocery stores and restaurants.

In Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, the governors have provided immunity to all essential and non-essential businesses, with the condition that they must adhere to the safety recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and cannot violate any laws.

Simultaneously, an ATRA report provided a detailed list of the states who have signed executive orders granting various degrees of limited immunity for healthcare providers and their facilities. With this information, we have designed a chart listing the states who have provided some form of protection to various businesses.

states Type of Business with immunity
  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
Healthcare providers and their facilities
  • North Carolina
Most essential businesses
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah
  • Wyoming
All businesses

It is essential to note that these new laws are temporary and not absolute. These immunity bills will expire when the emergency orders are lifted; and they do not overlook gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional infliction of harm. In addition, they do not regulate criminal charges or workers’ compensation claims.

For more information on this topic, please check your state’s website or contact your local government. They may have specific information and or instructions on how the immunity bill may affect your business. If you have any questions, please email our team at