COVID-19 has created unprecedented uncertainty for manufacturers deemed essential to the pandemic relief efforts. These companies have remained open to aid in the COVID-19 response. Now, because of their laudable efforts to help this country get back on its feet, they risk becoming targets of COVID-19-related lawsuits or enforcement actions based on product liability, alleged workplace transmission, and even Good Samaritan efforts.
Manufacturers confront new and difficult legal questions every day simply to continue to serve the public. Federal and state recommendations on operations and protections have evolved and changed rapidly, at times leading to confusion even with simple tasks like cleaning a work site with bleach. Recognizing the importance of allocating “medical grade” equipment to healthcare workers, some manufacturers also designed and produced masks, separation screens, face shields, and hand sanitizer for their own employees to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities.
AMT and other manufacturing organizations are urging lawmakers to include targeted liability protections in the next COVID-19 relief package to shield their patriotic efforts from unwarranted lawsuits. This will provide some level of certainty for manufacturers that they will not be held liable for policy decisions by government officials should employees or customers contract COVID-19 once operations resume. We are also asking for protection from litigation that could result from coronavirus-related disruptions to issues like wages and hours, leave, and travel.
The path to a bipartisan agreement on the next relief bill hinges on the inclusion of these COVID-19 liability protections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pledged he will not move legislation forward without them. However, Democrats are balking, pressured by the powerful lobbying effort led by trial lawyers. They want somebody held accountable. Representative Bobby Scott, D-Va., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, recently told Reuters that any legislation on employer liability would need to address the question of who is liable in cases of negligence.
AMT recently joined hundreds of like-minded organizations representing essential businesses in a letter to congressional leaders calling for the inclusion of liability protections in the next COVID-19 legislation. Please contact your members of Congress and explain the importance of adding these protections as more manufacturers resume operations in these uncertain times. If you have questions on this issue or need help reaching out to your elected officials, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.