Arizona lawmakers advance Covid liability protection bill – Chamber Business News

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A bill to provide Covid liability protection for businesses, schools, healthcare workers, and others is advancing at the Arizona Legislature.  

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week voted 5-3 to approve the legislation to offer a shield for responsible businesses and workers who have been on the front line of the virus. 

Sen. Vince Leach

“Since the first outbreak of COVID in Arizona in March 2020, we’ve seen businesses really step up to remain open, while taking numerous safety precautions. We’ve seen Arizona’s health care heroes on the front lines, battling the pandemic daily,” said the sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Vince Leach, R-SaddleBrooke. “Unfortunately, there will always be people who will try to take advantage of the situation and file reckless lawsuits. I hope this legislation will give people the assurance that if they’re following health and safety precautions, they won’t be hit with a nuisance lawsuit.” 

Safe harbor from unwarranted litigation

The bill, Senate Bill 1377, would offer protection from reckless litigation for businesses and others who act in “good faith” to implement reasonable policies to protect their customers, clients and patients. 

SB 1377 also offers protection for injuries that result from indirect causes, such as a patient who was unable to get admitted to a hospital when healthcare facilities were barred from performing non-elective surgeries during the public health emergency. 

Under the legislation, plaintiffs would have to prove “clear and convincing evidence that a person or provider failed to act or acted with wilful misconduct or gross negligence” in order to win a civil suit. 

Thousands of employers support liability protection

The bill has seen a groundswell of support from employers and advocacy groups statewide. At the hearing last week, representatives from a variety of sectors including healthcare, education and industry urged lawmakers to pass the bill.

“Senate Bill 1377 provides targeted and reasonable liability protection for responsible actors working under extraordinary circumstances,” said Courtney Coolidge, vice president for government affairs at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“This is not blanket immunity,” Coolidge said. “It provides reasonable recourse for truly bad actors.”  

Steve Barclay, an attorney and lobbyist who spoke on behalf of the Arizona Medical Association, said frontline workers deserve protection and from being “second guessed” in the future. 

“Our physicians, our nurses, our health professionals have served so admirably, tirelessly, and at personal sacrifice to treat thousands and thousands of patients across this state for a never-before-seen virus,” Barclay said. “Our heroes deserve some added protection from being second-guessed later and subjected to unmeritorious lawsuits for alleged errors in the care that they provided under adverse conditions to the best of their ability. That’s what this bill intends to do.” 

Chad Heinrich, Arizona state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), said small businesses are more at risk of financial ruin if faced with nuisance lawsuits.

“Our members in Arizona have made it clear that this is the top priority for them this session,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Barry Aarons, a lobbyist for the Arizona Trial Attorneys Association voiced opposition to the bill, saying it places the standard for proof so high that legitimate medical malpractice claims will be almost impossible to litigate.

Responsible operators deserve protection 

Most businesses and organizations have proven that they can act responsibly, proponents of the measure said. They have shifted their business models, put up plexiglass shields, personal protection equipment for employees, and followed guidelines for sanitizing and social distancing from the Centers for Disease Control.

Leach and other state lawmakers began working on a liability bill last year when the U.S. Congress failed to adopt protective legislation through the CARES Act or subsequent legislation. 

Since then, Leach and other legislators have heard from hundreds of constituents calling for a state-sponsored protection bill. Stakeholders like the Arizona Chamber, the Greater Phoenix Chamber and the NFIB worked with industry groups and provided input to help put together a bill that was simple and straightforward. 

Half of states now have Covid liability laws 

At least 25 states have passed similar Covid liability protection laws, Coolidge said. Like Arizona, several others are currently considering legislation. 

Passage of the bill would provide some reassurance to employers that they will not be hit with nuisance lawsuits, which could derail an economic recovery, she said. 

Coolidge said the millions of dollars in advertising by trial lawyers already on Covid exposure is “a clear indication of what’s to come” in terms of the number of forthcoming lawsuits.   

To read the bill’s full text, go to: Covid-19 liability protection.

Organizations supporting the bill 

21st Century Healthcare

Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits

American Academy of Pediatrics – AZ Chapter

American Heart Association

American Property Casualty Insurance Association

Americans for Prosperity

Amigos Trade Association

Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce

Arizona Academy of Family Physicians

Arizona Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs

Arizona Assisted Leving Homes Association

Arizona Association of Community Managers

Arizona Association of Health Plans

Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities

Arizona Automobile Dealers Association

Arizona Automotive Wholesalers Association

Arizona Bankers Association

Arizona Board of Regents

Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Arizona Chapter National Safety Council

Arizona Charter Schools Association

Arizona Council of Human Services Providers

Arizona Dental Association

Arizona Farm Bureau Federation

Arizona Foot and Ankel Medical Association

Arizona Health Care Association

Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association

Arizona Leading Age

Arizona Licensed Beverage Association

Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association

Arizona Manufacturers Council

Arizona Medical Association

Arizona Mining Association

Arizona Multihousing Association

Arizona Nurses Association

Arizona Optometric Association

Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association

Arizona Petorleum Marketers Association

Arizona Pharmacy Association

Arizona Realtors

Arizona Restaurant Association

Arizona Retailers Association

Arizona Rock Products Association

Arizona School Risk Retention Trust, Inc.

Arizona Small Business Association

Arizona Soccer Association

Arizona State Association of Physicians Assisitants

Arizona State University

Arizona Technology Council

Arizona Trucking Association

Associated General Contractors of America Arizona Chapter

Buckeye Chamber of Commerce

Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Phoenix (BOMA)

Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce

Chandler Chamber of Commerce

Chubb Insurance

City of Surprise

City of Yuma

Coconino County

County Supervisors Association of Arizona

East Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance

Education Finance Reform Group

Experience Scottsdale

Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce

Fresenius Medical Care North America

Gilbert Chamber of Commerce

Glendale Chamber of Commerce

Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce

Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce

Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce

Greater Phoenix Economic Council

Greater Phoenix Leadership

Green Valley Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center

Health System Alliance of Arizona

Home Builders Association of Central Arizona

HonorHealth

InvisionAZ

Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce

League of Arizona Cities and Towns

Marana Chamber of Commerce

Mesa Chamber of Commerce

Mutual Insurance Company of Arizona (MICA)

National Association of Industrial Office Properties (NAIOP) Arizona Chapter

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company

Northern Arizona University

Page Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce

Peoria Chamber of Commerce

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)

Phoenix Formulations

Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce

Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce

Republic National Distributing Company of Arizona

Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona

Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce

Southern Arizona Home Builders Association

Southern Arizona Leadership Council

Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce

Southwest Veteran’s Chamber of Commerce

State Farm Insurance Companies

Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce

Tempe Chamber of Commerce

Total Spectrum

Town of Queen Creek

Tucson Metro Chamber

United Dairymen of Arizona

United Servcies Automobile Association (USAA)

University of Arizona

Valley Partnership

West Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance

Western Plant Health Association

Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce

Wine Spirits Wholesales Association of Arizona

Yavapai County Contractors Association

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