As the United States’ economy begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, several state legislatures have passed laws granting many businesses immunity from liability claims. These new laws expand on the emergency protections granted at the onset of the pandemic.
Kentucky remains one of the few states that have yet to expand upon its emergency provisions beyond health care providers and affected workers. Other states’ legislation may provide insight into what local business owners can expect when Kentucky lawmakers consider their next steps.
Kentucky’s emergency protections
Governor Andy Beshear signed Senate Bill 150 into law at the end of March. This bill granted Kentucky residents the following provisions:
- Waived the 7-day waiting period before receiving unemployment benefits
- Allowed workers with reduced hours to collect unemployment
- Extended the state deadline for filing taxes
- Authorized the use of state funds to support a pandemic hotline
- Lifted restrictions on telehealth services to allow doctors to serve more patients
As for immunity, SB 150 focused primarily on health care institutions but granted immunity from civil litigation to businesses that switched their operations to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) and other emergency supplies.
Immunity in other states
Kentucky remains one of six states, including the District of Columbia, to not expand liability protections to other businesses. In North Carolina, however, lawmakers extended immunity to “essential” businesses like grocery stores, banks, hardware stores, and even attorneys. However, the law will waive protections in situations of gross negligence, intentional harm or recklessness.
Oklahoma’s law grants immunity to anyone exposed to the virus as long as those people break no laws and follow safety regulations. Wyoming’s law is similar, granting immunity to businesses or individuals who act in good faith and follow safety directions for the duration of the public emergency.
Business owners can secure legal protections
Many of these laws may come too late. Personal injury lawyers across the country have already filed liability suits on behalf of their clients. Kentucky business owners can reach out to a local attorney familiar with malpractice claims to help create a safe, lawsuit-free workplace.