White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said in a televised interview that the Trump Administration will examine limiting business liability for the spread of the coronavirus and that “safeguards” as well as “reforms” would be key parts of those efforts. Kudlow described the possible approach as a “guardrail” that is targeted toward small firms.
Kudlow said per reports, “That is very important here regarding safeguarding, guard-railing liability insurance lawsuits, which I am quite concerned about.” He continued, “Businesses, particularly small business that don’t have massive resources, should not be held liable, should not be held to trial lawyers putting on false lawsuits that will probably be thrown out of court.”
President Donald Trump has reportedly signified that the administration is seeking to restrict liability in instances where staffers or potentially clients become sick due to the coronavirus. At a recent press conference, Trump said, “We have tried to take liability away from these companies.” The president also noted that he would look for a legal opinion; however, he indicated that the particulars of a measure were yet to be talked over.
‘Safe Harbor’ for Businesses
The news comes on the heels of a report that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to the time that businesses in the U.S. can open again but is worried that lawsuits could against businesses could surface for exposing customers to the coronavirus.
In a letter to its members, the organization wrote, “A reopening plan that is medically based and relies on social distancing and other best practices for public health may raise significant regulatory and legal liability risks. These are in addition to numerous lawsuits already filed as a result of COVID-19 and litigation risk that will become exacerbated during a reopening.”
To help mitigate the situation, the chamber said a “safe harbor” could exist in the mode of guidelines for firms adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standards.
Legal and Ethical Considerations for Retailers
For retailers, legal and ethical issues that the current crisis presents require attention regardless of size and legal knowledge. Eric Su, a partner at New York City-based Crowell & Moring’s Labor & Employment Group, said, “If you’re a company that has an HR department, make sure you have a checklist of your concerns and what you think will be your employee concerns.”
Su continued, “If you’re a company that does not have those resources, understand that you’re making business decisions first and legal decisions second. And know that there are resources from state, federal and private organizations if you need them.”