Today state attorneys general (AGs) continued to demonstrate that they will play an active role in shaping the country's response to COVID-19 in calling for legislation and a framework to provide liability protections for businesses that provide much-needed goods and services during the pandemic, while still ensuring victims are able to seek legal redress and compensation where appropriate.
Led by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, 21 state AGs sent a letter to Congressional leadership, noting that 23 states across the country have recognized the need for timely, targeted and tailored civil liability protections in light of the pandemic and have enacted liability protections for first responders and health care workers.
The AGs called for an extension of this type of liability protection in the wake of the economic devastation caused by the pandemic and for the extension of appropriate liability protections for businesses, manufacturers of personal protective equipment, healthcare facilities, and and members of law enforcement. The attorneys general called on Congress to enact specific liability protections that help mitigate the threat of frivolous COVID-related litigation and address pandemic protections that are not currently covered under federal laws such as the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY Act) and Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP Act).
Notably, in seeking a balanced piece of legislation the AGs expressly stated that civil liability protections should not be extended to businesses engaging in willful misconduct, reckless infliction of harm or intentional infliction of harm, and called for criminal penalties, regulatory fines and agency oversight to capture bad actors. Moreover, the signatories also stated that the courthouse doors should be open for any citizen hurt by a business or individual acting with disregard for safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today's letter is yet another signal that state AGs will be major players in shaping the post-pandemic landscape in the consumer protection arena with their ability to shape legislation being a major driver of that influence.
“As attorneys general, we ensure our states have a legal and regulatory environment that protects consumers and allows the free enterprise system to thrive. It is in keeping with this mission that we are calling on Congress to ensure that those businesses that have engaged in best practices and followed federal and state guidance for safe and appropriate operations as a result of this pandemic will be protected from baseless litigation regarding COVID-related claims.”