The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to a time when the country's businesses can reopen, but the organization worries that once that happens, lawsuits could arise against businesses for exposing customers to the coronavirus, according to a letter it posted online.
The group said this should be a concern for federal and more local lawmakers. The chamber said that, as long as a place of business is following the requisite guidelines, there should be some form of protection from frivolous lawsuits involving the contracting of the virus after businesses reopen.
The chamber said legal action relating to exposure to the deadly virus could eventually crop up amid businesses deemed "essential" and others. The chamber said chargers of negligence or even strict liability or public nuisance could be pursued.
While the chamber said proving causation may be a challenge, it noted that if enough such cases are brought before the courts, they could lead to some businesses facing bankruptcy. Other businesses may be deterred from reopening even if health officials give the green light for such action.
To help remedy the situation, the chamber said there could be a "safe harbor" in the mode of guidelines for businesses strictly following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Some claims could be taken to federal courts rather than remain at individual local ones. Public nuisance claims could be banned or tightly restricted, and lawmakers could enact laws to prevent the over-use of such lawsuits, like what was done for the Y2K Act.
The chamber's letter addressed a number of other concerns about the eventual reopening, cautioning that businesses will need extra financial aid if social distancing rules prevent them from operating at full capacity, and that testing and health screenings will need to be more widely available to prevent more virus outbreaks in the future.
The timeline for business re-openings could be longer rather than shorter. Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, said he thinks it's unlikely that the recovery will be as quick as was initially hoped.