Virginia Senate Strikes Down COVID-19 Business Immunity Bill

Sep 2, 2020

Should corporations be immune from lawsuits if customers contract COVID-19?

Nobody has immunity from the novel coronavirus. And, for now, businesses owners don’t have immunity from being sued if customers or employees contract the disease either.

Senator Chap Petersen is a Democrat from Fairfax City who supported an ill-fated attempt to offer legal immunity to businesses under certain conditions. 

“The bill in its idea was to give immunity to business owners for tort claims dealing with the COVID-19 virus," he says. "In other words, if someone contracts COVID-19 and they sue you and your business saying we contracted it through your business that you have some type of legal protection, and I very much support that.”

Credit CDC

But labor organizations and worker advocacy groups did not support that, and the bill was stricken from the record.

David Broder at SEIU Virginia 512 says Virginia already has the strongest health and safety standards for workplaces in the country, and he doesn’t want to see that eroded. 

“Virginia’s emergency temporary standards were a critical step in protecting the health of frontline workers and the health of local economies," Broder explains. "But this corporate immunity bill was nothing more than a backdoor attempt to weaken those very standards.”

The House is also considering several bills on the issue, and groups that advocate for workers say they don’t want to see any effort to prevent employees from filing worker’s compensation claims if they contract COVID-19 while on the job.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.