COVID liability legislation needed to protect SC businesses

Jobs & Economy
September 18, 2020

Oran P. Smith, Ph.D

Senior Fellow

As soon as COVID-19 hit our country, personal injury lawyers went into overdrive looking for clients to dial all #’s or (800). Some plaintiff firms actually encouraged potential clients to go ahead and file suit against the business they had conspired to target just in case the client got COVID or even if they had knowingly contracted just the common flu!

These anti-business lawyers are aggressive. Another strategy employed against businesses is to attempt to circumvent the state workers’ compensation system as a way to fleece businesses directly. Manufacturers of PPE are being hit with frivolous product liability claims. Even hospitals are in the crosshairs.

This is not right. Our economy has been hit hard. Over 73,000 businesses in the United States have permanently closed since the coronavirus struck. We can’t lose any more. It is crucial that businesses and industries be able to fully rebound, get their colleagues back to work, and see paychecks flowing again.

That is why Palmetto Promise Institute has recommended that the South Carolina General Assembly pass meaningful COVID tort liability protection. If a business or industry (or hospital) has made good faith efforts in line with CDC and DHEC to protect their customers and associates from COVID-19, they should not be shaken down for damages from someone who “might” have been exposed.

There is good news and bad news for the Palmetto State.

The good news is a number of members of the South Carolina General Assembly have been fighting to get bills to the Senate and House floors. The Speaker of the House appointed a special committee that put together a bill, but no action has been taken. Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey attempted to bring a bill directly to the Senate floor just this week by unanimous consent, but it was objected to.

The bad news is our General Assembly hasn’t been meeting regularly during COVID, we still don’t have legislation on the books here, and the General Assembly is scheduled to be in town for just one more week (next week).

Many states have acted—19 states and the District of Columbia. (You read that correctly. The District of Columbia.) Unfortunately for the Palmetto State, all of our economic development competitors are in that group who have stepped up. Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina are among those who have taken positive action to defend employers from unfair COVID-related lawsuits.

We urge the South Carolina General Assembly to protect South Carolina businesses, industries, PPE manufacturers, food producers and hospitals by passing a strong COVID tort liability protection bill as soon as possible. Family paychecks depend on it.