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Alabama Senate passes bill defending businesses, other entities against frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday morning passed Senator Arthur Orr’s (R-Decatur) SB 30, which would provide limited liability protections to businesses, health care providers and other entities against civil lawsuits related to COVID-19.

The vote was 28-1, with Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) as the only “no.”

The bill would provide a “safe harbor” against frivolous coronavirus lawsuits, however it does not offer blanket immunity. SB 30 would still allow “wanton, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct” to be the subject of civil actions related to the virus.

This is a priority bill for legislative leadership, Governor Kay Ivey, and the business and medical communities. Orr also worked diligently with the legal community on the legislation.

The Business Council of Alabama in a tweet after Thursday’s vote voiced appreciation for the Senate, adding, “This bill will provide much-needed liability protections to businesses, healthcare workers, churches and other entities when it comes to COVID-related lawsuits.”

SB 30 was favorably recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Orr has explained that the bill would not protect entities that willfully ignore governmental health orders and guidelines. Instead, he and proponents of the legislation anticipate that it will simply shield “good actors” from being victimized.

Entities covered under this legislation include businesses, nonprofits, LLCs, health care providers, educational entities, churches, governmental entities and cultural institutions operating in Alabama, as well as individuals associated with these groups.

“These entities across our state have been crushed by the effects of the pandemic and are struggling to stay in business, maintain their employees on the payroll, and keep their doors open to continue to serve their communities,” Orr said in a written statement.

“For our economy to continue to survive and recover, these groups need to know that they will be protected if they are making every effort to follow health and sanitization protocols,” he continued. “This legislation does not protect organizations that do not follow the rules. This simply prevents those who did from being taken advantage of in the courts.”

Similar legislation has been adopted in the past year by more than 25 states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

“This legislation has one goal – to protect vulnerable people across our state who are struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic,” Orr concluded. “This bill should be swiftly passed and signed into law so we can give people hurt by this pandemic this much-needed peace of mind.”

SB 30 received a first reading in the House on Thursday following Senate passage. This was the third day of the 2021 regular session and the first possible day that bills could pass each chamber under legislative rules.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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