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
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
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.
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.