Not Immune: Reopened Businesses Face Lawsuits

As businesses continue to reopen following weeks or months of closure due to coronavirus lockdowns, they have a lot to worry about besides complying with new mask mandates. Reopened stores, restaurants and offices face a possible wave of lawsuits from employees and customers who get sick with coronavirus. "As you see the spikes (in coronavirus cases) in Texas and other states, you can just double that for the amount of litigation that's coming," says Andy Trusevich, Texas-based labor and employment attorney with Rent-A-Center. "We are a litigious society, and it's not a question of if a business gets sued, it's a question of when."

Trusevich tells KTRH these types of lawsuits are particularly threatening to small "mom and pop" type businesses. "Small businesses have been shut down, they're barely making it above water now trying to reopen," he says. "And if they get sued, one or two cases can bankrupt a small business in a matter of months with legal fees."

Republicans in Congress have been pushing for liability protection for businesses from frivolous coronavirus lawsuits. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to demand such protection as part of any future coronavirus-related legislation, saying recently, "the litigation epidemic has already begun."

Trusevich is not hopeful a divided Congress will be able to address the issue, but he believes it can be done at the state level. He notes there are only five states with liability protection for businesses, and Texas is not one of them. "What we really need is legislation giving businesses limited immunity," says Trusevich. "Meaning if they act reasonable, and they follow the recommendations of the NIH (National Institutes for Health) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), then they're going to be immune from a lawsuit."

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