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COVID-19 Liability

COVID-19 Liability

Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented liability exposure issues for California businesses and employers. In particular, for essential businesses who have stepped up to provide services, goods, and facilities during the crisis, there is mounting concern about the threat of frivolous litigation alleging these businesses are responsible for coronavirus exposure.

California has already recognized the need for protection from civil liability during times of crisis under the Emergency Services Act (Cal. Gov’t Code §§8550, et seq.). The act gives state and political subdivisions sweeping immunity for discretionary functions (§8655). To certain private entities, the act gives immunity from civil liability, while preserving the ability for harmed individuals to seek remedies for gross negligence and willful misconduct (§8657.5).

To encourage and support critical response efforts, the state needs to provide assurances of immunity to all industry sectors providing critical services, goods, and facilities. CJAC and a large coalition of business organizations have asked Governor Newsom to take the following actions:

  1. Issue an executive order at the earliest possible time clarifying and expanding the immunity provisions of Government Code section 8657.5 to apply to all private entities and their workers providing critical services, goods, and facilities during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
  2. Advance and support urgency legislation, to be acted upon when the Legislature returns from recess, to address any gaps in this immunity expansion not addressable by executive order.

California businesses are in survival mode, yet they are working in amazing and heroic ways to respond to the crisis. They should not be punished with class actions and private rights of action that attempt to capitalize on this crisis. Our businesses and the economy cannot sustain further damage.

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