May 11, 2020

As Congress readies to do battle over whether to shield businesses from civil lawsuits in connection with worker and customer COVID-19 infections, defense attorneys said such protections are essential to encouraging business owners and jump-starting an anemic economy hammered by state and local lockdowns.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said that a broad liability shield for companies will be a top Republican priority and a "red line" issue for the next coronavirus relief bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the topic Tuesday.

Leslie M. Kroeger, a Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC partner and president of the Florida Justice Association, said the push for civil immunity for businesses is largely a result of the insurance industry's efforts to enact tort reform legislation.

"It's just another tort reform attempt from the insurance industry," she said. "To take advantage of a pandemic … and make sure the insurance companies don't pay out is just horrible."

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