March 5, 2021

Lawmakers approve virus liability legislation

Alabama lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to a bill the would shield businesses, health care providers and others from lawsuits from employees and customers who claim they were exposed to COVID-19.

The bill would shield businesses, schools, health care providers, churches and others from lawsuits over COVID-19 exposure and treatment unless the person could prove the entity was acting with reckless or intentional misconduct.

The House of Representatives voted 86-4 for the bill. It now moves to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature. Ivey had named the bill — along with a bill to exempt coronavirus relief funds from state sales taxes and a third to renew the state’s pool of industrial recruitment incentives — as the top priorities for the first two weeks of the legislative session.

Republican Rep. David Faulkner of Mountain Brook said the bill will discourage baseless lawsuits but not protect “bad actors” who recklessly ignore precautions.

“This is going to give the protection to people, to these businesses, to these workers to get back out there without fear of needless lawsuits or really lawsuits that shouldn’t be filed,” Faulkner said.

Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, said he supports the bill but is concerned the immunity will encourage conspiracy theorists and irresponsible people to continue to disregard COVID-19 precautions. He described how his family was infected because of people repeatedly flouting mask orders.

“Families are being impacted, just like mine,” Bracy said. “We are about to vote to continue to protect them.”