Professor Nina Kohn Critiques "Safe to Work Act" for Law360
GOP's Coronavirus Biz Liability Shield Plan Raises Eyebrows
(Law360 | July 31, 2020) Republicans' recently floated bill in the Senate to shield businesses and health care providers from coronavirus-related injury suits has raised the eyebrows of both plaintiffs and defense attorneys, with some saying it was the most sweeping and expansive attempt at tort reform they'd ever seen.
The Safe to Work Act would impose significant hurdles for workers, customers and patients who want to sue businesses and health care providers over coronavirus-related injuries, which the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said were necessary to prevent the latter "from being sued into oblivion." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had called the liability shield a top Republican priority and a "red line" issue for their next relief package proposal, which Senate GOP members unveiled last Monday ...
Nina Kohn, a professor at the Syracuse University College of Law and an advocate for nursing home patients' rights, said the only good thing about the bill is its title.
"It is the kitchen sink of tort reforms. It's possibly the kitchen bathtub, though, because there are things in here that are unscrupulous and extraordinary," Kohn said. "Not only is this an incredible amalgamation of every tort reform wish list, there are things in here that, to the best of my knowledge, are unprecedented."
Kohn noted that the bill defines gross negligence as reckless disregard of both legal duty and applicable government standards and guidance.
"The 'and' does incredible mischief here," she said. "Things that we would consider gross negligence [under common law] would not be considered gross negligence here" ...