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Taking reasonable precautions such as wearing gloves can help businesses avoid civil liability. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
By Timothy D. Lytton, Distinguished University Professor & Professor of Law, Georgia State University
Governors around the country are attempting to restart the economy by easing restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The prospect of returning to “normal” amid a pandemic has businesses lobbying Congress to grant them sweeping immunity from civil liability for failure to adequately protect workers and customers from infection.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned of an “avalanche” of lawsuits that will stymie economic recovery efforts if Congress does not act quickly. He said he won’t let another coronavirus bailout pass the Senate unless it also shields companies from coronavirus-related liability.
My research on the role of civil lawsuits in reducing foodborne illness outbreaks suggests that fears of excessive litigation are unwarranted. What’s more, the modest liability exposure that does exist is important to ensuring businesses take reasonable coronavirus precautions as they reopen their doors.
How not to be careless
As a general matter, businesses are subject to civil liability for carelessness that causes injury to others. The law defines carelessness …
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