Last week daily COVID-19 related deaths reached a daily rate equal to the September 11th terror attacks. Weekly unemployment claims remained higher than during the 2008-2010 recession. But never fear, a group of bi-partisan group of federal legislators came up with a solution:
Protecting corporations from lawsuits related to COVID-19.
The liability protections were part of a “super-skinny” relief package put together by the so-called “Problem Solvers Caucus” and supported by Democratic congressional leaders.
University of Wyoming Law Professor Michael Duff wrote a much better version of the blog post that was rattling around in my head on treadmill on Thursday morning. I’ve written plenty about how workers’ compensation is an inadequate remedy for COVID-19, but that it blocks efforts for workers to seek justice outside of workers’ compensation.
Duff’s points out tht more workers, particularly in the gig economy, are denied even basic employment protects workers compensation. Liability protections would take away the right of contractors or gig workers to sue for catching COVID due to corporate negligence. Duff called the proposal “treacherous” and “not civilizational.” In the final paragraph he more or less states the liability provision creates a constitutional crisis.
I agree with Professor Duff.
The constitutional crisis is that Congress wants to strip rights from essential workers. Sure, the legislation only calls for a liability shield for six months, but how easy would it before Congress to extend the shield once it’s implemented?
Maybe this sounds like a paranoid slippery-slope argument, but one of the raps on outgoing President Trump was that he violated norms with his behavior and conduct which undermined the Constitutional order. I think that that’s true. Norms were supposed to be respected with the election of Joe Biden and the return of “the adults in the room.” A bi-partisan group of self-proclaimed problem solvers defines what it means to be “the adults in the room.” Turns out the “adults in the room” don’t really respect norms either. The norm in this case is the basic ability of a person to have some access to the court system to address harm
The poor behavior of the “adults in the room” is dispiriting to say the least. Advertisers and politicians have extolled the “essential worker” throughout the pandemic. In some states, New Jersey as an example, that talk has turned into helpful action for essential workers. But hearing politicians who vote for COVID-19 liability shields celebrate essential workers rings hollow.
The fact that tort reform is part of a take or leave it deal, where the consequences of leaving it will be millions of people slipping into destitution is disturbing.