by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Business groups say that the fear of a flood of unfair coronavirus lawsuits hurting businesses is real despite data showing that not many such lawsuits have been filed yet.
More than 3,700 coronavirus-related lawsuits have been filed since March, but just 185, or less than 5% of the total, are plaintiffs claiming potential exposure to the virus from a business or other entities, according to an analysis by the American Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers.
The analysis suggests that the rate of lawsuits being filed against businesses for potential exposure to the virus are relatively low and buttress the association’s argument that Republicans’ push for coronavirus-related liability protections for businesses and other entities such as schools and nonprofit groups is misguided.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said shielding business owners from coronavirus-related lawsuits is a “red line” in future spending negotiations with Democrats. Republicans are worried that the economic recovery could slow without such protections because of the fear of businesses being unfairly sued in the coming months, even if they do their best to follow coronavirus safety protocols.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, have said Democrats won’t support the business liability protections, with Pelosi saying in May that their priority is to “protect our workers and our patients in all of this.”
But business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers say that the number of claims will grow.
“Their argument is a red herring. Employers need protections before a potentially crippling lawsuit has been filed against them, not after,” said Harold Kim, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.