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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 22, 2020 04:47 PM
From: Senator Patrick J. Stefano
To: All Senate members
Subject: Liability Protection for Pennsylvania Businesses
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to provide Pennsylvania employers with reasonable protection from targeted lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is the responsibility of lawmakers at all levels to ensure individuals who contract COVID-19 receive the necessary support.  Understanding additional support is still needed, laws providing patients with paid leave, enhanced unemployment compensation, cash benefits, and health coverage have been enacted to support those affected by the virus.
However, as we look forward to reopening Pennsylvania, we must ensure our business owners can resume operations without fear of being held liable for things beyond their control. 
A pandemic, by definition, implies that contraction of the virus can occur in practically any public place.  As such, while it is likely impossible to prove COVID-19 was contracted at a particular place of business, it’s similarly impossible for employers to defend against such an allegation.
We must ensure these employers, who are already reeling from the economic downturn, are not put in positions where they are pressured to settle cases rather than defend potentially costly litigation, the outcome of which is uncertain.
In the majority of cases, filing a civil lawsuit against a patronized business will not be the appropriate approach to get support for patients.  Yet, it is likely a plaintiff’s attorneys will target employers – both essential businesses that have remained open and others when they are allowed to resume operation.  We need a robust, concerted strategy to help individuals who contract COVID-19 – not an approach that automatically directs a portion of the support to plaintiffs’ attorneys and away from patients.
While my legislation will provide employers with reasonable protection from targeted lawsuits, it will also provide exceptions for businesses found to have committed repeated or willful gross negligence in failing to comply with mandatory safety and health standards required to prevent COVID-19 spread.
Pennsylvania’s employers and their employees are eager to resume operations.  Let’s ensure they can do so without concern of being held accountable for liability beyond their control.
I hope that you will consider joining me in co-sponsoring this legislation.  If you have questions regarding this information, please contact Jake Gery in my office at jgery@pasen.gov.

Introduced as SB1194