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September 2, 2020

Waiving COVID-19 Liability Protects Special Interests, Not People

benjamin franklin on 100 dollar bill wearing a covid mask

By Eddie E. Farah

Imagine you or a family member were injured because of a defect in your car’s airbag, but you weren’t allowed to hold the automaker accountable.

Imagine someone you care about being hurt by an underage drunk driver, but the law protected the bar that served him from any legal responsibility, even though they never checked his ID and overserved him.

Or, imagine your child suffers a broken arm on faulty playground equipment, but you’re prohibited from seeking justice from the manufacturer because its industry got a law passed to protect them from safety accountability.

Now, imagine you or a family member became sick with COVID-19 because a business didn’t bother to follow expert advice about best practices for health and safety requirements – because they knew there was nothing you could do.

That’s what the future could be for millions of citizens as special interests seek new laws to protect themselves instead of the public from COVID-19 responsibility — trying to persuade the Florida Legislature and other governments to issue a massive, undeserved liability security blanket to protect them from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Most good businesses are working hard to protect employees, clients, and customers by embracing health experts’ advice about working from home, masking, safe distancing, and other proven best practices. But those bad actors who callously disregard such safe, smart, strategic steps don’t deserve a pass on responsibility.

Sweeping legislation being sought in Florida and elsewhere to shield businesses from being sued over COVID-19 cases — even when their actions, decisions, policies, or mistakes could lead directly to people getting sick or worse – is a dangerous virus of its own. This is worrisome as millions of people return to work, many discovering that their employers aren’t providing a safe working environment that follows CDC and other health guidelines.

As scary as this pandemic continues to be, intentionally creating a new legal monster that hurts the public would makes things worse.

Advocates for such broad liability protection assert that impacts from COVID-19 aren’t their fault – and they shouldn’t be held responsible for people who get sick or die, even if their actions or inactions contributed to, or caused, the bad outcome.

For more than 230 years, Americans have turned to courts of law to seek justice from those who harm others. This founding principle means everyone should be responsible and accountable for their actions.

A sweeping liability waiver to protect businesses from legitimate claims over COVID-19 would destroy the very cornerstones of our justice system. Lawsuits are often the only recourse the “little guy” has against businesses that do them harm, and we must not strip away the right of individual citizens to seek justice.

Real people are the victims of COVID-19.  More than 500,000 Floridians have been infected, and nearly 9,000 of our family, colleagues, friends, and neighbors have been lost to the virus. The Florida Legislature and other governments should properly reject any big business push to let them off the hook for any calculated failure to prevent even more of us from being added to the sad and dark count.

Before it’s too late, let’s stop a terrible idea from becoming a bad legislative bill that could ultimately become a very dangerous law.

Connect with Eddie E. Farah via Twitter

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