The Missouri Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would limit coronavirus-related lawsuits.
For about 15 hours, Senators ate up the clock and talked about a variety of things, including sports, movies, BBQ joints, American history, and traveling plans. The stalling forced supporters and opponents of the bill to make adjustments to the measure. The filibuster ended shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday.
The legislation they worked on is designed to protect certain businesses, services, activities, or accommodations from such lawsuits in many instances. It includes health care providers, manufacturers, religious organizations, schools, and other nonprofits.
Under the bill, a plaintiff must clearly prove the entity or individual acted in reckless or willful misconduct that caused exposure to COVID-19. The lawsuits must be filed within one year of an alleged exposure.
Bill sponsor, Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, says if such lawsuits go unchecked, many more businesses and jobs will be lost.
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, expressed concerns over a product liability provision.
“It’s the principle, right that you didn’t use to make the product. You’ve been asked to make it now, but you’re making it in a way that, according to this bill, they’re trying to protect you if you didn’t sort of do an adequate or good enough job. It’s one thing if you did it knowingly or not knowingly. We want to make sure that people are still making products with care,” says Schupp.
During floor debate, Mike Moon of Ash Grove and fellow Republican Bill White of Joplin discussed the legislation.
“We have allowed people to create such fear in people’s minds that now we are taking drastic measures such as these,” says Moon. “And I don’t know that it’s that necessary. Yes, people are going to die. Just like the regular seasonal flu, people will go out and sneeze, and snort, and probably pass those germs around to people. Did people get sick? I bet they did. And did they die? Perhaps. We know that there’s a risk to living. And if we are going to take a stance that says we are going to start opening up the flood gates for lawsuits and civil action, then I don’t know if there’s any turning back.”
“Senator, this bill closes those flood gates,” says White.
Gov. Mike Parson supports COVID-19 liability protections. During his State of the State address last week, he urged lawmakers to make a bill like that be the first one to hit his desk this session.
The legislation, Senate Bill 51, was combined with Senate Bill 42.
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