Limited COVID-19 Business Liability Protection

TO: Dauphin, Perry & Cumberland State and Federal Delegations
FROM: Dave Black, President & CEO; Taylour Trostle, Government Relations Director, Harrisburg Regional Chamber
DATE: May 21, 2020

On behalf of our Board of Directors and our members with over 120,000 employees, who like you, are trying to sort out the current health risks and the future of our economy, we ask you to support a legislative solution on a likely projected legal barrier as we move toward re-opening under the continuing threat of COVID-19.

The barrier and projected problem the business community may face is becoming the target of coronavirus-related lawsuits while doing their level-best to reopen safely when the time comes. The solution is the passage of both Federal and State targeted, timely and temporary legislation that would provide coverage to businesses facing liability lawsuits. These lawsuits would only be followed by time-consuming and costly litigation. 

In Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf issued an Executive Order to protect certain healthcare providers from liability. That order accomplishes very little while leaving out many doctors, health care systems, hospitals and businesses, including manufacturers who converted to make PPE and other essential services (grocery stores, drug stores, etc). We understand from Wolf Administration Officials that there is interest in working on this issue. We are also aware of efforts underway in D.C. We appreciate those efforts and are hopeful for a solution.

Our immediate future calls for Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to provide temporary relief by expanding liability provisions to protect businesses acting in good faith during these unprecedented times while following the guidelines outlined by the CDC, OSHA, and Commonwealth authorities. We stress temporary relief realizing the political reality of getting any permanent change in liability reform.

We acknowledge individuals or businesses who operate in reckless or intentional contempt of available guidance on reducing the spread of coronavirus should not be protected from liability.

We encourage liability protections that are appropriately tailored and limited to the present emergency and a reasonable period of recovery.

The Harrisburg Regional Chamber is committed to the safe reopening of business and sensible rules that protect businesses during these unprecedented times through partnerships with legislators at all levels. We believe this is a reasonable request on behalf of the business community.

We are working in conjunction with the PA Chamber of Business and Industry and the US Chamber of Commerce on this issue. We thank you for your dedicated service to our region, state and nation in this time of crisis. If we can provide additional information, please let us know.

The barrier and projected problem the business community may face is becoming the target of coronavirus-related lawsuits while doing their level-best to reopen safely when the time comes. The solution is the passage of both Federal and state targeted, timely and temporary legislation that would provide coverage to businesses facing liability lawsuits. These lawsuits would only be followed by time-consuming and costly litigation.