Long story short, no liability for businesses ever. Surprise!
Ted Cruz, Harvard Law class of 1995, has had it with those damn dirty lawyers and their filthy lawsuits.
“If we do nothing, there will be an onslaught, a tidal wave of lawsuits going after every small business in America for opening up and risking COVID-19,” the senator thundered to Hugh Hewitt (U. Mich. Law, 1983) on his radio show Wednesday.
“That’s not an acceptable course of action,” he added, before going on to predict that “Chuck Schumer Nancy Pelosi will go to the barricades to protect the ability of the trial lawyers to sue everyone and try to extract billions from the system.”
Cruz’s anti-lawyer position is shared not only by the White House, but also by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who vows that no further stimulus bill will pass without liability protection for businesses from suits by employees or customers sickened on the premises.
“We’re not asking for some type of immunity. We’re asking for a safe harbor,” Chamber of Commerce vice president Neil Bradley told NPR’s Morning Edition. “So the CDC, OSHA, state public health authority issues recommendations. A business does its best to comply with those recommendations. That should be a safe harbor for them against those type of frivolous lawsuits.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council, aka the conservative lobby group ALEC, sounded a similarly reassuring note.
“There needs to be a measured approach, and there needs to be protection from certain liability,” ALEC staffer Ronnie Lampard told Bloomberg Law. “We want to say if the organizations and employers are complying with certain rules and regulations, those companies should be immune from certain liability.”
The problem with this is that there are no rules for safely reopening America’s businesses because the White House blocked the CDC from releasing them. The AP reports:
A document created by the nation’s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still-raging outbreak has been shelved by the Trump administration. The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen. It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official.
According to The New York Times, the CDC’s detailed plans to safely reopen child care facilities, schools, day camps, religious institutions, employers with vulnerable workers, restaurants, and mass transit was scrapped last week by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (A. A. Univ. South Florida) who called the rules “overly prescriptive.”
“Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn’t be the same guidance for urban New York City,” one White House official told CNN, ignoring the fact that literally every section of the leaked CDC guidance advises “collaboration with local health officials and other State and local authorities who can help assess the current level of mitigation needed based levels of COVID-19 community transmission and the capacities of the local public health and healthcare systems.”
The White House was also worried that crazy, stringent guidelines like actually requiring food service workers to wear masks might provide a basis for those icky lawsuits Republicans are so desperate to avoid. They prefer to couch recommendations in soft language, devoid of any legal meaning or enforceable standard.
So the CDC’s actual guidelines got supplanted by the bland pablum from the White House about Opening Up America Again. And the country was saved!
Well, business owners were saved, anyway. The rest of us who have to get sick at work are f*cked.