By George Christian, General Counsel, Texas Civil Justice League
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) has introduced legislation to shield businesses, health care providers, schools, non-profit organizations, and other entities from liability for personal injury claims allegedly caused by exposure to the novel coronavirus. The Act applies to injuries from alleged exposure occurring between December 1, 2019, and the later of the end of the declared emergency or October 1, 2024. Claimants have one year to file suit from the date of the alleged exposure. The Act applies to pending claims.
The SAFE Act creates a safe harbor for entities that make reasonable efforts to comply with mandatory public health guidelines or, if no mandatory guidelines are in effect, with at least one set of voluntary guidelines. If multiple guidelines apply to the entity, compliance with any one of them will satisfy the safe harbor requirement. An entity loses the protection of the safe harbor if it does not take reasonable steps to comply with guidelines, and the entity’s gross negligence or willful misconduct causes the claimant’s injury. The Act contains similar protections for health care providers, employers for employment related exposure, and product manufacturers. The SAFE Act pre-empts state law to the extent the state does not have more stringent liability protections, so it acts as a floor rather than a ceiling.
TCJL applauds Senator Cornyn for his hard work on this legislation and will work with its members to secure its passage, presumably as part of a larger coronavirus relief bill under consideration in Congress.