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Illinois businesses looking for limited COVID-19 liability as bills stall in committee

Business groups are looking for Illinois state lawmakers to provide limited liability from COVID-19 lawsuits, but efforts to bring about such protections have stalled in committee.

Many states across the country have measures in place that limit the liability for a business to be sued if someone alleges they contracted COVID-19 at that business. The American Tort Reform Association tracks policy state-by-state.

ATRA also indicates across the country 9,594 complaints related to COVID-19 have been filed. Through most of 2020, the group also tracked 176,053 TV advertisements in the United States for legal claims or services mentioning COVID-19. More than $1 million of the $3.1 million was spent in Illinois, according to the group.

Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association President Michael Jacobson said Illinois needs to join other states and offer liability protection, or the state will lose business to other states.

“Businesses who follow government guidelines for safe operations and implement best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be protected from legal liability,” Jacobson told a House committee last week.

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association said there shouldn’t be blanket liability protections, and workers and consumers should be protected from bad actors.

“If businesses are taking the proper precautions to protect employees and customers, they won’t have to worry about potential lawsuits because negligence claims are governed by a reasonableness standard,” said Larry R. Rogers Jr., president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. “Consumers don’t want to shop or dine in establishments that cut corners on safety, nor do the men and women who staff these businesses want to work without the confidence that everything reasonably possible has been done to keep everyone safe and healthy.”

Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President Mark Denzler said in an interview they’re not seeking blanket immunity. They are looking to stem “frivolous lawsuits.”

“They could be completely innocent and have followed all protocols and they may spend tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves from frivolous claims,” Denzler said.

Bills filed by Republicans in the House and Senate to offer limited liability protections for businesses that may be hit with COVID-19 lawsuits have stalled in committee.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said the issue is crucial.

“People like to go to litigation and people like to sue and we need to be out front on that and being proactive to protect our businesses,” Butler told WMAY.

Separately, state Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said workers and consumers must also be protected, but there’s a space for businesses to be heard, he said.

“Businesses are critical for our revenue and so if we lose our businesses in Illinois, there goes our budgets,” Ford said.

This article was originally posted on Illinois businesses looking for limited COVID-19 liability as bills stall in committee

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