(Harrisburg) – Health care providers, schools, businesses and others who followed COVID-19 public health directives would be protected from unfair lawsuits for good-faith actions they took during the pandemic under legislation approved by the Senate today, said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34).
House Bill 1737, as amended in the Senate, aims to head off waves of lawsuits that could bankrupt already struggling employers and unfairly harm institutions who did their best to follow the changing and sometimes conflicting guidance provided by state and federal governments.
“For months, schools have been asking for this legislation in order that they would have protections from being sued over their efforts to protect students and employees,” Senator Corman said. “Employers are struggling under the weight of prolonged shutdowns and limitations only, to live in fear of lawsuits once they do open because of the constantly changing guidance.”
People and entities covered by the legislation would still be responsible for any intentionally wrongful acts and acts considered “reckless.” Most will also be responsible for any “gross negligence.” (Manufactures of personal protective equipment who donated PPEs or sold them at cost are protected against “gross negligence” claims.)
Under the legislation, claims of negligence must be demonstrated by “clear and convincing evidence,” rather than “by a preponderance of evidence.”
The measure applies to health care providers, PPE manufacturers, schools, universities and childcare providers, as well as business and government service providers.
The legislation does not provide complete immunity for anyone. It simply ensures that if people or entities follow public health directives established by federal or state governments, they will not be held responsible for any harm that allegedly occurred.
House Bill 1737 also provides liability protection to farmers who want to host agritourism events like hayrides, farm tours and corn mazes. The site must post specific warning signs, and have a signed, written agreement with a participant that they have acknowledged the risk of participating in an agritourism activity.
The amended bill was returned to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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