Harrisburg – Health care providers, schools, businesses and others who followed COVID-19 public health directives would be protected from unfair lawsuits for good-faith actions they took during the pandemic under legislation approved Thursday by the Senate, said Senator John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry).
House Bill 1737, as amended in the Senate, aims to head off waves of lawsuits that could bankrupt already struggling employers and unfairly harm institutions who did their best to follow the changing and sometimes conflicting guidance provided by state and federal governments.
“Employers and schools who have been navigating the ever-changing pandemic guidelines from state and federal health officials have been warning us for months that they face financial catastrophe from opportunistic lawsuits,” said DiSanto. “This legislation spares already struggling entities from further harm, while ensuring that anyone acting recklessly will still be held accountable.”
Persons and entities covered by the legislation would still be responsible for any intentionally wrongful acts or “reckless” acts. Most will also be responsible for any “gross negligence.” (Manufactures of personal protective equipment (PPE) who donated or sold them at cost are protected against “gross negligence” claims.)
Under the legislation, claims of negligence must be demonstrated by “clear and convincing evidence,” rather than “by a preponderance of evidence.”
The measure applies to health care providers, PPE manufacturers, schools, universities and childcare providers, as well as business and government service providers. It does not provide complete immunity for anyone, but simply ensures that if persons or entities follow public health directives established by federal or state governments, they will not be held liable for harm that allegedly occurred.
House Bill 1737 also provides liability protection to farmers who want to host agritourism events like hayrides, farm tours and corn mazes. The site must post specific warning signs, and have a signed, written agreement with a participant that they have acknowledged the risk of participating in an agritourism activity.
The amended bill was returned to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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