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Bill protecting businesses from COVID-19 liability introduced in Nebraska Legislature

Customers would need to prove gross misconduct or willful negligence
Posted at 6:46 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 19:46:54-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV — It’s been a rough 10 months for businesses both large and small in Nebraska and now some are fearful of the potential of litigation.

“They’re faced with the threat of needless unwarranted lawsuits,” said State Senator Tom Briese.

He is pushing the COVID-19 Liability Protection Act. The bill doesn’t deal with the employer-employee relationship, instead it focuses on customers in a business, patients in a hospital and students in a school.

If somebody were to sue for damages due to COVID-19, they would need to prove gross negligence or willful misconduct with clear and convincing evidence; a much higher standard than current law.

“This is in response to exceptional circumstances, these are exceptional times that we are in, special circumstances and this legislation will sunset,” said Briese.

Ron Sedlacek, Vice-President and General Counsel at the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, said as long as there is a good faith effort to comply with COVID-19 protocols, owners should be protected under the bill.

“This certainly encourages everyone to essentially re-open, with some assurances again, that they’re not going to have to face potential litigation," said Sedlacek.

The bill is broad in who it protects, covering property owners who invite others into their home. State Senator Mike Flood said protecting nursing homes is especially important.

He said they already have heavy government regulation and low reimbursement rates.

He worries what would happen if they’re sued.

“I think that type of environment, with all the regulations and all the liability, on top of the fact that our reimbursement rates haven’t kept up, is a recipe for disaster,” said Flood.

Iowa already passed a similar law last summer.