Legislature gives immunity from lawsuits over COVID-19 exposure; 2 Southern Utah lawmakers oppose

Stock image | Photo by TK 1993/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Legislature is giving immunity to businesses and property owners who might face lawsuits for exposing someone to COVID-19.

According to a report from Fox13Now, the bill sponsored by Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, passed the Legislature’s “virtual” special session Thursday after considerable debate in both the House and Senate. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers are not meeting in the Capitol but rather voting and debating online.

“We should give those businesses some assurances as they work to give their customers assurances that they will get immunity from these types of claims,” Cullimore said during floor debate. “One concern is, will the businesses then just skirt duty of care altogether? I don’t think that’s the case. I think the free market is going to work itself out. That patrons and employees are not going to want to work or participate in businesses that are not demonstrating active care for their employees and patrons and maintaining cleanliness.”

However, the bill, designated as SB 3007 in the Legislature special session, faced pushback. Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, who argued it was too broad.

“It could be at a restaurant or a business… or it could be at a school event or a concert or a rally,” she said.

The bill passed 22-6 in the Senate, with all Southern Utah senators voting in favor of the bill.

In the Utah House, the bill also faced considerable debate as lawmakers push for economic recovery from the pandemic, but it ultimately passed by a vote of 54-21, with all Southern Utah representatives voting in favor except Reps. Lowry Snow and Merrill Nelson.

“Businesses, under current law, simply have to take reasonable precautions under the circumstances,” Nelson said. “Current law would not make businesses insurers or guarantors that no one coming onto their premises would contract the virus. The effect of the bill would be to do away with that reasonable care standard under the circumstances.”

Nelson said the bill would immunize businesses from liability for negligence.

“For example, if a business failed to wipe down a door handle or a tabletop or a counter top, that would probably be considered negligence. With this bill, we’re immunizing them from responsibility for that type of behavior. … I don’t think anyone would try to pin on a business a liability for someone who merely contracts the disease despite taking reasonable precautions.”

However, co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Salem, said it did not provide safe harbor for recklessness.

“There’s retailers, grocery stores that are supporting this,” Roberts said.

St. George News contributed to this report with comments from comments from Rep. Merrill Nelson.

Read the full story here:  Fox13Now.com

Written by BEN WINSLOW, Fox13Now.com.

Copyright 2019, KSTU. A Tribune broadcasting station

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