Monday, 03 August 2020 22:59

Proposal Would Grant NV Businesses Legal Immunity from COVID Lawsuits if They Comply With Health Standards

Written by Michelle Rindels and Riley Snyder, The Nevada Independent


Businesses---but not health facilities---would get immunity from liability for death or injury stemming from COVID-19 if they substantially followed directives aimed at preventing the spread, according to a draft expected to be introduced in the Nevada Legislature’s special session.

The bill language, obtained by The Nevada Independent and first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, outlines litigation protections from COVID-19 related liability for governmental entities, schools, nonprofits and major businesses if they meet “controlling health standards” outlined in the bill.


It’s the culmination of a weeks-long effort by some of the state’s largest industries, including the casino resort trade group Nevada Resort Association, to enshrine liability protections in law amid lessened business demand and declining profits for the state’s tourism-driven economy. They have argued frivolous lawsuits linked to COVID-19 could put them out of business.


But the concept of liability protection has also been opposed by progressive groups and trial attorneys, who say it lets potentially dangerous or unsafe behavior off the hook by protecting them from litigation. It’s also raised the ire of health care interests, who say they should get the same protections as other businesses do.


But the bill also contains language on the liability protections with enhanced worker safety provisions, including many provisions requested over the past weeks by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226.


The bill draft request lays out in significant detail health and safety requirements for hotels and casinos. Upon request of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, health districts could make recommendations about public health matters and be granted the authority to enforce those regulations.


For businesses, immunity would apply to those that are adhering to federal, state or local laws, regulations or ordinances, or written document, order or publications presented by government agencies or regulatory bodies.


For a lawsuit related to COVID-19 death or injury, plaintiffs are required to plead “with particularity,” a technical legal term that essentially means they must meet a higher evidentiary bar in order to bring a claim. 


Any lawsuits can be dismissed if the challenged entity is in “substantial compliance with controlling health standards,” a term introduced in the bill that is defined as a “good faith effort” to comply with federal, state or local laws or regulations related to COVID-19 mitigation or protection.


The bill also states “isolated or unforeseen events of noncompliance” with the health standards to not demonstrate noncompliance---which likely means individual cases are not enough for litigation, instead requiring plaintiffs to identify a pattern.

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