The Bottom Line: Business community urges legislature to consider COVID-19 lawsuit protections as state reopens

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

FRANKFORT, Ky. — In an effort to protect Kentucky’s business community as the state reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Kentucky Chamber testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary on Thursday to discuss the need for lawsuit protections for business during this uncertain time.

Kentucky Chamber Vice President of Public Affairs Kate Shanks, McBrayer Law Firm member Cindy Effinger, and Frost Brown Todd member Robert Hudson advocated on behalf of employers across the commonwealth that have stayed open to provide essential services, halted normal operations to produce PPE, closed their doors and reimagined their business during the pandemic.

Before the 2020 legislative session concluded in April, the Kentucky legislature passed initial protections for companies manufacturing PPE. Since then, 13 other state legislatures have adopted legislation to shield employers, not just ones producing PPE, from liability.

As most businesses have reopened, experts urge the need for increased protection as they predict an overwhelming number of lawsuits related to the pandemic. In Kentucky, 50 lawsuits have already been filed, and across the U.S., over 3,000 have been filed.

Though businesses already have heavy operational incentives to maintain healthy, safe workplaces, employers are having to adapt to meet constantly-changing state and federal guidelines in response to the coronavirus, Hudson said, which has led to the most challenging environment for workplace legal compliance in Kentucky’s history.

“Recovering from this pandemic isn’t only about our response to stopping the spread of the illness, it’s also about restoring our economy, and lawsuits filed against employers that have done their part to keep Kentuckians safe will delay our recovery,” Shanks said.

Stay tuned on The Bottom Line for more on legal liability issues related to the coronavirus.