COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- More than 5000 COVID-19 related lawsuits have been filed nationally since the start of the pandemic. Some related to employment issues, others related to the virus itself and possible negligence on behalf of a business that put patrons and employees at risk.

Here in South Carolina, lawmakers and businesses are working together to make sure businesses that are doing the right thing are protected from being sued.

Bills have been filed in both the House and the Senate to protect businesses from COVID-19 related lawsuits, but when lawmakers returned to the State House earlier this month they were unable to pass the legislation.

“The number one priority is to make sure they’re providing a safe place of business and if they’re doing that we think this is the right, common sense thing to do,” said Sara Hazzard, the president of the SC Manufacturers Alliance.

Industries across the state have been pleading with lawmakers to offer businesses protection from COVID-19 related lawsuits.

The idea is that if a business is following the guidelines in place, COVID related lawsuits against them would more than likely be unsuccessful.

Hazzard continued, “So companies have been seeking resources from the CDC to DHEC to OSHA for what protocols they need to have in place to protect their workers and patrons. And they’re doing everything they can to follow those guidelines.”

Representative Russell Ott served on a special House committee centered on business protections. Ott is also a cosponsor of a bill to offer those protections.

“We are asking that businesses kind of open back up. Certainly encouraging schools to open back up. So I think a lot of business owners are going down that path and say if I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do then the state needs to give me some cover.”

South Carolina lawmakers responded with legislation that offers temporary protections during the pandemic from COVID related lawsuits.

The bills failed to pass this session, but lawmakers are hoping to have something in place for businesses next year. Many are fearful of the consequences of not having protections in place.

Ott continued, “You’ll see businesses that are too concerned and too afraid of these lawsuits to get back in business and what that means is a lot of employees, my constituents aren’t going to be able to get back to work and provide for their families.

The bills have been referred to the appropriate committees; however, it’s unlikely any action will be taken on them until lawmakers return in January.

As of right now, there are about 30 lawsuits filed here in South Carolina that are currently being tracked in the court systems.

This proposal would apply not just to businesses, but to schools, churches and even event venues.