SC lawmakers draft bill to protect businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits

State News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Many South Carolina businesses are hesitant to reopen out of fear of being sued if someone becomes sick at that establishment. So now South Carolina lawmakers are drafting legislation to better protect businesses who are trying to keep the public safe.

“If we accomplish what we are set to do we are giving the businesses a leg up by giving them some clarity on the standards,” explained Rep. Tommy Pope, chair of the House COVID-19 Liability Protection Committee.

On Tuesday, members of the committee spent 2 hours discussing a bill that would help ease those fears. The “safe harbor bill” would outline clear guidelines businesses would have to follow in order to avoid a successful lawsuit.

Representative Russell Ott represents the business side of the discussion on the committee. He broke down the goal of the bill. “We are trying to threat the needle giving protections to those that are trying to do right thing, while at the same time saying to the bad actors if you are doing nothing to protect your customers or employees then we are not trying to give you immunity.”

Some argue the legislation is not needed and current law already covers similar lawsuits.

“This is exactly why we think we don’t need a bill because if the standard is going to be reasonable then that’s the standard set by common law,” said one industry at Tuesday’s meeting.

But the lawmakers interested in defining the standard and those guidelines further, say the legislation is needed to keep businesses open.

“There would be the concern that individuals would bring forth a number of lawsuits and therefore shut down businesses and would be very harmful to our economy,” added Representative Jason Elliott.

Members of the Senate are also working on similar legislation to the House’s safe harbor bill.

This bill does not mean that someone would not be able to sue a business; however, it would make it harder for a lawsuit to be successful since lawmakers will be defining what standards businesses need to adhere to.

The bill would apply to government buildings, schools, and entertainment venues, in addition to store front businesses.

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