Proposed legislation aims to give premises liability protection under COVID-19

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 9:06 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Many local businesses and schools are already in a bind as they attempt to reopen, and stay open.

However, they still face risk of lawsuits being filed against them due to COVID-19 risks.

The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce is joining a request to pass new legislation protecting businesses and educational institutions as long as they’re taking precautions to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Many legislators are calling this a common-sense step.

Picture this, a business fights to stay alive during the pandemic, continues to serve customers and follows the health orders.

But it can’t be 100% confident customers or employees won’t still catch the virus.

Governmental Affairs Director for the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce Scott Rogers is a part of a movement started by Senator Kris Kapenga, and Representatives Mark Born and Dan Knodl aiming to protect people in these situations.

“A number of organizations from throughout the state have come together and are supporting some proposed legislature to give premises liability protection under COVID-19”.

Rogers says this protection would cover businesses, schools, universities, and even homeowners, if they take reasonable precautions to protect the public.

A letter from the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce says in part,

“The safe harbor would not protect bad actors. An entity would lose the liability exemption if they knowingly violated a public health order or spread COVID-19 by acting in a reckless or intentional manner.”

“It’s important for us to be responsible when we’re opening businesses and schools and so forth but also be protected because if were following the guidelines we should be able to be protected from frivolous lawsuits and not have to fight those,” said Rogers.

There is a possibility this becomes federal legislation.

However, Rogers says there is a gridlock at the national level, so states are taking matters into their own hands.

“Certainly the way this needs to happen is for the legislature to convene and meet and pass this and send it to the governor.”

By supporting this protection, the Eau Claire area chamber joins 25 other chambers including Oshkosh, Menomonie, and Rice Lake.

Rogers and the WMC call for people who want to see this legislation pass such as business owners or school officials to contact their local legislators and make your voice heard on this issue.

A letter to Wisconsin State Legislature also urges quick action, creating a deadline to co-sponsor the bill as September 25th.

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