Recently on the Senate Floor, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, stated that he is “working on a proposal that would put commonsense reforms in place and protect those acting in good faith from being sued into oblivion” for coronavirus-related claims.
The attention that Sen. Cornyn is devoting to this issue is appreciated, as the need for these congressional protections is becoming increasingly apparent.
The first wave of the virus may have calmed down, but now, the threat of legal action appears to be picking up. While many businesses have cut or eliminated their advertising budgets during this crisis, trial lawyers seem to be taking the opposite approach, using the lockdown confinement orders to recruit new clients with TV ad blitzes.
The list of people that have been victimized or anticipate being caught by this lawsuit pandemic is endless. Emergency room doctors that have had to ration care or perform unfamiliar jobs because of the public health crisis have expressed fear of being second-guessed by the trial bar.
Many businesses have also signaled hesitancy about re-opening, citing concerns of receiving blame for customer outbreaks despite following all OSHA health guidelines. Large corporations and chains may have enough financial capital to fend off these frivolous suits, but their smaller competitors do not and are counting on lawmakers to protect them.
All good-faith actors deserve a shield from these costly, baseless legal skirmishes, but no one merits the aid more than those that burdened by the effects of counterproductive government action (or inaction) during this crisis. Nursing homes fall squarely in this category.
While the general vulnerability of the seniors that these facilities care for would have made them a prime focus of the trial lawyers no matter the situation, governors magnified the litigation targets on their backs by preventing these facilities from screening incoming residents for COVID-19. The states eventually recognized the mistake of forcing nursing homes to accept the infected and rescinded their counterproductive mandates, but that did little to stop the damage. It was only a short matter of time before they amplified the number of outbreaks and deaths among the facilities’ staff and residents.
It would be morally bankrupt to allow caretakers to take the blow for politicians’ misfires, just as it would be unjust to sue a restaurant following all OSHA guidelines for an infection that allegedly occurred within its walls. To keep America safe, healthy, and supplied, these people require more certainty in these uncertain times. The legislation that Cornyn is preparing has the potential to secure just that.
Some are attempting to cast Cornyn’s work as partisan tort reform theatrics. These accusations are far from the truth. The Texas senator has repeatedly said that his legislation will only create temporary, targeted COVID-19 protections for good-faith actors. It won’t issue blanket immunity to protect those that engage in wrongdoing; it will merely set federal parameters for what virus claims businesses can and cannot be credibly held accountable for during this crisis.
There’s nothing partisan or radical about that. In fact, the states have already come to a bipartisan consensus on the need to protect Main Street from wealthy, predatory legal interests during this crisis.
Over 20 states – run by both Democrats and Republicans – have implemented targeted COVID-19 liability shields for healthcare workers and senior caretakers during this crisis, especially for those affected by the counterproductive mandates they issued. Cornyn is just working to fill in the gaps and prevent legal confusion by following congressional precedent, as well as the advice of attorneys general from 21 states, to create a federally-set standard for liability for this public health emergency that burdens the entire nation.
Reports indicate that the Democrat chorus of opposition that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, have attempted to create for Cornyn’s bill has already started to crack.
Should the Texas senator lean heavily on the provisions and ideas already engrained in many Democrat governors’ state shields – especially as they relate to hospitals and nursing homes – that crack can quickly grow into a gaping hole. Let’s hope so. During this crisis, the American people need of bipartisan unity now more than ever.
Dr. Michael Busler, Ph.D., is a public policy analyst and a professor of finance at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in finance and economics. He has written op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years.
© 2021 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.