Survey Finds Public Supports Liability Protections for Firms Against Abusive COVID-19 Lawsuits

May 6, 2020 Updated: May 7, 2020

The majority of those responding to a recent poll expressed support for proposals to provide special liability protections for companies stemming from claims linked to COVID-19.

Sixty-one percent of those interviewed expressed support or strong support when asked if “Congress should protect many businesses and types of companies from lawsuits being filed related to the coronavirus.”

Thirty percent of the respondents said they “strongly support” such protection, compared to only 8 percent who said they “strongly oppose” it.

“The global pandemic has caused tremendous economic harm to our nation. As employers plan to reopen safely and sustainably, the last thing they need is to face a financially crippling lawsuit despite their best effort to comply with public health guidelines,” Institute for Legal Reform President Harold Kim said in a May 5 statement in releasing the survey results.

“Any protections for employers should be targeted, timely, and temporary, and no business should be protected from lawsuits for gross negligence.”

Conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform by the Alexandria, Virginia-based Public Opinion Strategies (POS) April 23–27, the survey interviewed 800 adults and has a margin of error of 3.46 percent.

Support for five more specific forms of liability protection now being considered by Congress was noticeably stronger and spanned across partisan political boundaries.

Eighty-four percent, for example, said they support “protecting businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies, which have been allowed to stay open as essential businesses, from lawsuits related to the coronavirus.” Of those, 66 percent said they “strongly support” such protection.

Only 13 percent opposed such protection, with the remainder either declining to answer or not having an opinion.

Eighty-seven percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats favored such protection.

When restaurants, stores, and other businesses are allowed to reopen, 82 percent of the respondents favored not allowing lawsuits filed by individuals who claim “they contracted the coronavirus at that place of business unless the business was grossly negligent.”

That position was opposed by 15 percent of the respondents, according to POS.

The partisan split showed 85 percent and 79 percent support, respectively, from Republicans and Democrats.

In situations in which an employee shows symptoms that may indicate the presence of the coronavirus but he or she still wants to work, 74 percent of the respondents said they would favor protecting the employer who asks such workers to remain at home.

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said they would oppose such employer protection.

Four out of five, 80 percent, of Republicans supported such protection, and 72 percent of the Democrats did as well.

Three out of four of the respondents, 75 percent, said they believe hand sanitizer companies, soap companies, and other cleaning supply companies should be protected from coronavirus lawsuits, while 22 percent said they oppose such protection.

Seventy-eight percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats would favor this protection.

On the sensitive issue of protecting individual privacy, 62 percent of the respondents said they believe companies shouldn’t be vulnerable to litigation for responding to government requests for health information “about which employees have the coronavirus, are sick now, or have recovered from the virus.”

Thirty-four percent opposed such protection, including 19 percent who said they would “strongly oppose” it.

This was the only question among these five in which more Democrats favored the protection, 63 percent, than Republicans, 61 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said recently that providing liability protections is his top priority if Congress is to pass a fourth coronavirus recovery measure.

“My red line going forward on this bill is we need to provide protection—litigation protection,” McConnell said.

That statement drew immediate opposition from Democrats, who for decades have benefited from financial and other support from trial lawyers who have won huge liability settlements from corporations, medical professionals, and others.

Republican campaign strategist Matt Mackowiak told The Epoch Times in a recent interview that “McConnell is prioritizing liability protection for employers because it is absolutely necessary for the economy to reopen.”

Mackowiak, founder of Potomac Strategy Group, added that “there is no question that voracious trial lawyers would file thousands of lawsuits against employers, which would harm businesses who are already on thin ice.”

“The threat of lawsuits will prevent some businesses from opening at all. Democrats need to decide whether they support reopening the economy or owning the continued economic shutdown.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc.