Posted August 3, 2020
In the age of the novel coronavirus, the legal ramifications of contracting the deadly virus at a public space or in business are only now being tested. However, to protect themselves from lawsuits, many small business owners are creating liability waivers to protect themselves from some legal action–but not all. How effective is a liability waiver in protecting businesses from lawsuits? The answer is that it depends.
The Legal Weight of Liability Waivers for COVID-19 Spread
The American Bar Association has reported that as small businesses across the country begin to reopen, many are bracing for the onset of COVID-19 related lawsuits. Those businesses are asking customers and clients to sign COVID-19 liability waivers to limit legal ramifications should someone contract the virus.
Most businesses and practices utilizing these forms include:
- Dentist and doctor offices
- Daycare centers
- Movie theaters
- Bowling alleys and other entertainment venues
But how much do these waivers protect business owners? While these forms do not offer total immunity from legal action, they can protect from common negligence claims, but it truly depends on the wording.
In general, if a business is following state, national, and local mandates about coronavirus protections, there should not be a need for a waiver. However, in an age of frivolous lawsuits, it’s understandable a business owner, who has been without stable income in months, wants extra protection.
However, these liability waivers do not protect against intentional misconduct or gross negligence claims.
Not only do these waivers apply to business owners, but also event venues.
At President Donald Trump’s rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona, attendees were asked to sign waivers which recognized that the “inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.” Within the waiver, the organizers were discharged from “any and all liability under any theory, whether in negligence or otherwise, for any illness or injury.”
While someone could potentially contract the virus and get someone else sick, there is a small chance they can sue the venue, with the difficulty of contract tracing and proving that the virus was contracted at the rally, the legal standing may be nil.
In addition, four states do not recognize liability waivers for COVID-19. Those states include Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, and Connecticut.
Possible Law May Further Protect Businesses, Venues
Waivers are not a foolproof way to protect against lawsuits which the U.S. government has recognized. A new federal law is being proposed that would offer protection to businesses, nonprofit organizations, colleges, and universities that follow all federal and state guidelines.
The bill may be part of the next coronavirus economic relief bill, which may be available by the end of summer. Many government officials are suggesting that the bill be retroactive to December 2019 and terminate on Oct. 1, 2024, when the federal emergency declaration expires.
However, until a bill is approved, there is no way to know if businesses are protected from COVID-19 legal action.
COVID-19 Liability Waivers
There is so much uncertainty for business owners in the face of COVID-19. However, when desperate for protection from liability, many will try anything just to be able to reopen their doors once more.
If you are a business owner and have questions about the enforceability of a liability waiver against COVID-10 spread, contact the nationwide COVID-19 injury lawyers today. We work with attorneys across the country to ensure your business is protected and you can reopen safely. Contact us today.
Posted in COVID-19.