JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Senate passed a bill Tuesday to stop lawsuits targeting businesses over alleged COVID-19 exposure. However, that won’t happen as fast as some lawmakers were hoping.
Senators approved the COVID Liability Protection Bill Tuesday morning, 20-13. Four Republican Senators voted against the bill, along with 9 of the 10 Democrats, Sen. Barbra Washington (D-Kansas City) voted absent. Earlier this month the Senate spent 15 hours debating the legislation.
The measure also protects health care providers and manufacturers from being sued for being held liable for COVID-19 exposure.
Senators failed to put the bill immediately in to affect. The emergency clause added to the measure needed two-thirds majority vote to pass but was short five votes. Without the clause, the bill would not go into effect until the end of August, pending the approval of the House and governor.
Twenty-three other states have already approved something similar. The bill’s sponsor says it will protect those who are following guidelines.
“Affords protection to small businesses, schools, and churches against lawsuits for someone allegedly contracting COVID-19 on their premises,” said State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville). “Restaurants and shops have been economically crippled due to economic shutdowns, small businesses are struggling to stay open, and some may not survive the crushing hit of COVID-19 lawsuits.”
Senate Bill 51 protects some businesses from being liable for COVID exposure, unless a plaintiff says the entity did not follow the guidelines and caused the exposure. Under the legislation, people have two years to file a lawsuit regarding alleged exposure at a business.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said “more than 1,000 COVID-19 lawsuits have been filed against employers across the nation.”
The legislation heads to the House of Representatives for approval.
Gov. Mike Parson said during his State of the State that COVID liability was the first legislation he wanted on his desk from lawmakers.
“I hope the first piece of legislation to hit my desk this is a clean COVID-19 liability protection bill,” Parson said. “Missouri businesses, manufacturers, health care providers, schools, churches, and many other entities across the state did not hesitate to step up and help their communities in the fight against COVID-19. None of these groups should be penalized for their efforts to help.”