COVID-19 Business Immunity Bill Passes HouseBy SPECIAL TO THE PRESS REGISTER,
Mississippi House of Representatives passed HB 1783, or, The Mississippi Back to Business Liability Assurance Act today.
This bill essentially provides legal immunity to businesses amid COVID-19 from what could be deemed frivolous lawsuits.
The Mississippi House Democratic Caucus supported an amendment proposed by House Minority Deputy Leader Shanda Yates that created a balance of protection between businesses and people. The amendment failed 49-68. House Minority Leader Robert L. Johnson, III proposed a similar amendment that failed 52-65.
"This bill will not keep people from filing lawsuits," said Yates. "We need a balance that protects small businesses and the people we represent. Our duty is to protect both.”
After both amendments failed, HB 1783 passed with a vote of 72-43.
The bill would provide some level of protection to businesses, health care providers, religious organizations and other entities from lawsuits related to COVID-19 if they show a “good faith” effort to follow public health guidelines.
Gov. Tate Reeves has pushed for the bill at his regular coronavirus press briefings. If the bill passes the Mississippi Senate and the governor signs it, the bill would take effect retroactively to March 14. In effect businesses and venues that stayed open during the COVID-19 shutdown could tout this law to protect them if they are sued.
National Federation of Independent Business State Director Dawn Starns said NFIB supports Senate Bill 3049, that would protect small businesses and others from unfair and frivolous lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill was slated to be heard this week in Senate Judiciary A.
“When we surveyed our members last month about the issues that concerned them about reopening, over two-thirds said increased liability,” said Starns.