Americans are still waiting to see if a second stimulus check package will be approved, but there is reportedly a legal, but "phony issue" that is holding up further stimulus bill negotiations. Republican lawmakers are demanding that the next bill include the Safeguarding America's Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy law, also referred to as the Safe to Work Act, per Yahoo. This would give businesses and schools federal immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The GOP members of the Senate, led by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, appear to be unwilling to budge on this provision, which would be retroactive and cover any suits filed since December 2019. The act would protect companies and educational institutions until December 2024. Republicans feel this is necessary to protect the U.S. economy from lawsuits that they believe are "meritless" claims. Democrat leaders have opposed this, as they feel it too stringently limits what an injured or impacted individual can do if they believe a business or institution was responsible. However, many experts argue that both sides are being too contentious over something that many experts argue isn't really even needed.
"I think there’s a phony issue out there," the plaintiff’s attorney Richard Bell told Yahoo. "How are you going to prove it? Even if I prove gross negligence, how am I going to prove causation here?" Bell argues that even without the Safe to Work Act, most entities will not have to deal with significant lawsuits as COVID-19 exposure is nearly-impossible to prove beyond any doubt. Essentially, most businesses and schools would be able to argue that there is no concrete evidence they were responsible for the exposure.
Benjamin Edwards, an associate professor of law at UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law, also spoke with Yahoo, and stated he finds the coronavirus lawsuit fears to be "overblown." He also said that the Safe to Work Act seems to just be a "grab bag" of provisions meant to block lawsuits. Edwards went on to call say that "is more theater than substance," and added, "What they’re really trying to do is everything they can to deter these lawsuits and make them largely unwinnable."
Yahoo did speak to at least one lawyer who disagrees: Small business litigator Andrea Sager. She argues that just because a plaintiff may not be able to prove their case, the business or institution would still have to defend itself from the filed action. Sager says that, in her professional opinion, the law won't force entities to ease up on their standards, "because they’re still afraid of getting sued." She added, "The law says they still have to make that reasonable effort to comply with local standards."
She then went on to say that most small businesses "live day to day, week to week, based on what money they’re bringing in from their business." Sager added, "That’s the issue with my clients — having to spend any amount to defend that lawsuit — whether the plaintiff has a chance in hell, or not. Even businesses that did have savings, they’re running on 'E' right now just trying to stay alive."