Sen. Mitch McConnell Makes Lawsuit Protection For Companies Central To GOP COVID-19 Relief Bill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced the general outline of the proposed Republican coronavirus relief bill on Tuesday.
“I do not believe there will be anything in our bill that our Democratic colleagues should not happily support,” McConnell said.
As McConnell stated, there are indeed many parts of the proposal that both parties agree on, such as support for schools, healthcare workers, businesses and testing. However, the specifics of the support for businesses have generally been opposed by the Democratic party.
Specifically, supporting businesses, in addition to the Paycheck Protection Program, includes giving liability protections “so that people who acted in good faith during this crisis, are not confronted with a second epidemic of lawsuits in the wake of the pandemic that we’re already struggling with,” as McConnell said in a Louisville, Kentucky conference.
However, Professor David Super of Georgetown Law School pointed out in an opinion article for The Hill that “good faith” is “extremely difficult to disprove.”
“Enacting this proposal would fuel a pandemic already spiraling out of control. It would seriously exacerbate income inequality and racial injustice,” Super wrote. “And, ironically, it would undermine the economic recovery.”
Specifically, Super refers to how while conscientious employers would apply necessary measures to protect their workers, others may purposefully scrimp on these measures while claiming that they were acting in “good faith.” That is to say, ethical employers will lose out.
But beyond that, Super discusses how the liability protection would negatively affect the working class.
“Far from developing another way to help sick workers and their families, [Sen. McConnell] would simply bar the courthouse door and leave them with no recourse,” Super said.
“Precedent certainly exists for removing classes of harms from the private tort litigation system, and sometimes crafting other systems to respond to injuries is socially beneficial. Sen. McConnell’s proposal, however, does not fit this pattern at all … Usually, when we have reduced or eliminated the possibility of injured people bringing lawsuits for their injuries, we have done it because we have found other, better ways to compensate harms and deter risky behavior.”
There is no such alternative that has been suggested in the outline so far, though things may change with further negotiation.
The proposed liability protections would backdate to December 2019, according to McConnell.