WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) today introduced the Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy (SAFE TO WORK) Act, which would temporarily limit liability for COVID-19 exposure claims for frontline workers like nurses, doctors, teachers, and small business owners as long as they are following public health guidelines and are not grossly negligent.
“As states gradually reopen their economies, frontline health care workers, small businesses, and schools face a second pandemic of frivolous lawsuits threatening to bankrupt them,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would protect those acting in good faith from being sued into oblivion while ensuring bad actors who willingly put their patients, employees, or customers in danger will still be held accountable.”
Text of the legislation is available here.
Coronavirus Exposure Protections:
- Temporarily limits liability for personal injuries arising from alleged COVID-19 exposure at a school, college, nonprofit, church, or business.
o In order to qualify, entities must (1) have made reasonable efforts to comply with applicable public health guidelines, and (2) not engage in willful misconduct or grossly negligent behavior.
o These protections would apply to personal injury lawsuits stemming from actual exposure to coronavirus as well as feared or potential exposure. Nuisance claims will also be covered.
- Creates detailed procedural requirements to prevent frivolous litigation in federal court, including requiring notice of suit, limiting punitive damages to findings of willfulness, and fee arrangement disclosures for class actions.
- Covers coronavirus-related exposure injuries that take place between December 1, 2019 and October 1, 2024, the end date of the COVID-19 PREP Act Declaration.
Healthcare Provider Protections:
- Health care providers, including hospitals, doctors and nurses as well as nursing homes and other care facilities, would be protected from liability claims arising out of the provision of care for coronavirus or services provided as a result of coronavirus.
- Sets a willful misconduct or gross negligence standard for coronavirus-related medical malpractice suits, including diagnosis and treatment for coronavirus, as well as medical care directly affected by the coronavirus.
- Covers coronavirus-related medical liability claims occurring from December 1, 2019 to October 1, 2024.
Protecting Public-Private Partnerships to Better Distribute Equipment and PPE:
- Provides liability protections for new pandemic prevention and mitigation tools like ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) if they meet certain FDA requirements.
- Clarifies the PREP Act so that liability protections apply to products distributed by the private sector.
- Ensures employers are not liable under federal labor and employment laws for complying with coronavirus-related guidance, including stay-at-home orders.
- Protects employers from liability for injuries arising from workplace coronavirus testing.
- Clarifies that a business providing training, PPE, or other assistance to an independent contractor or a franchisee’s employee does not convert the independent contractor or franchisee’s employee into the employee of the person providing the training, PPE, or other assistance.