by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Business owners won’t rest easy if Congress shields companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits since they know that such protections only go so far.
“Probably a solid 8 to a 9,” said Chris Purcell when asked if he would worry about getting sued even if Washington enacted coronavirus liability protections.
Purcell operates Firehouse Subs in Elizabeth, North Carolina, a state with rising virus infections and more than 1,700 deaths. The state approved liability protections for businesses earlier this month, but it did little to soothe concerns over getting sued.
“It’s still full front in everybody’s mind,” Purcell said.
Purcell kept his restaurant open for takeout at the start of the pandemic but paused when he was able to reopen his dining area because of concerns that someone might sue his establishment for spreading the virus.
“We actually waited almost a week after we were allowed to [open] just to make sure that we had everything that the state was requiring and what the CDC was recommending for the sole reason of making sure that our employees and guests were safe,” he said.
Purcell’s concern is shared by a majority of business owners. Nearly 70% of business owners are very concerned or moderately concerned about liability when it comes to reopening, according to a recent poll conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that roughly two-thirds, 67%, of small businesses with 20-500 employees are worried about the possibility of lawsuits related to the coronavirus, according to its June poll. The percentage dips to 51% for businesses with fewer than 20 workers.
Small businesses with 500 workers or fewer employ more than 54 million workers, according to the Chamber. These jobs could be at risk if businesses come under attack by coronavirus-related lawsuits.