Op-Ed: Legislators in Kentucky look to address COVID-19 liability concerns during 2021 Regular Session

By: Rep. Regina Huff, Rep. Derek Lewis, Rep. Chad McCoy, and Rep. Steve Sheldon

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Over the past five months, hundreds of businesses, churches, schools, nonprofits, and other important institutions across our state have voiced concern that they may be sued despite making good-faith effort to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

 Frankly, given the tremendous uncertainty about the virus and what is expected of organizations to prevent its spread, that concern is understandable. There are inconsistencies between guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control, state public health officials, and the World Health Organization. Ultimately, the real issue is how we protect legitimate entities that are taking reasonable steps to protect people from the bad actors trying to profiteer?

In order to help Kentuckians weather the storm created by the COVID-19 health crisis, the 2020 General Assembly took steps to provide a temporary liability shield to a limited part of our economy. This measure was one of several priority measures passed in the final days of the General Assembly, despite the Governor calling for us to adjourn. We recognized our obligation as the only government branch with authority to make laws. Essentially, the provisions we added to SB 150 grant protection for two specific groups: health care providers who in good faith render care or treatment during the state of emergency; and for businesses that have begun making personal protective equipment (PPE) or personal hygiene supplies that do not do so in the normal course of business.

The legislation we file for consideration in 2021 will build on the foundation of what we accomplished with SB 150. We continue to receive input on the issue as we shape the bill, giving careful consideration, and drafting a measure that provides confidence to organizations and the people they serve. We will, of course, ensure that we do not shield businesses that intentionally endanger either customers or workers. We hope we can count on the support of colleagues in the House and Senate, particularly since efforts to pass similar legislation have been bipartisan in other states.

No reasonable acting person should have to live in fear of a lawsuit on the heels of the pandemic that we already have related to the coronavirus. And, the very last thing that businesses, churches, schools, and nonprofits need is one more threat to their ability to operate.

Rep. Regina Huff is a retired educator, represents Whitley County and a portion of Laurel County and serves as Chair of the House Education Committee; Rep. Derek Lewis is an independent pharmacy and small business owner and represents the people of Clay and Leslie counties and a portion of Laurel County; Rep. Chad McCoy is an attorney, represents Nelson County and serves as House Majority Whip; and Rep. Steve Sheldon is a pharmacist and small business owner who represents Butler County and a portion of Warren County.

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