Businesses want protection from pandemic-related lawsuits

BOSTON — It’s a fear being felt by many hurting businesses - the risk of potential coronavirus related lawsuits when things get back up and running.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to temporarily shield companies from liability as states begin to reopen their economies.

McConnell and some other top ranking Republican leaders have vocalized concerns that businesses could be targeted by overzealous lawyers and an avalanche of lawsuits.

McConnell said liability protections for companies is a non-negotiable demand for the next coronavirus stimulus legislation. According to McConnell, legislation would have to be carefully crafted by states, which he said would get federal money on the condition that they pass liability curbs.

Leaders of labor unions worry limiting business liability could put workers and consumers at risk.

“I don’t think this is a time for us to have questions about liability. I think this is a time for us to be talking about how we can balance the economy with keeping people safe and healthy,” said Carlos Aramayo, President of Unite Here Local 26.

Boston 25 News discussed the topic with seven Massachusetts business owners. All expressed concerns about the potential for pandemic related lawsuits and the lack of legal protection.

“Do you want to kill us and leave us in fear if we open, that someone is going to sue us for something?” questioned Damien DiPaola, owner of Domenic’s and Carmelina’s in the North End.

After being closed for weeks, restaurant owner Damien DiPaola is now doing takeout and delivery from Domenic’s restaurant located on Salem Street.

He said he operates with an abundance of safety and sanitation. However, he said that doesn’t eliminate fears of staying afloat in uncharted territory when the dine-in ban is lifted in Massachusetts.

“We are small independent business owners. We need to be protected because we protect our people,” said DiPaola. “We can’t stay open like this forever in this uncertain area.”

DiPaola said he’s like to see these concerns addressed on a state level in the coming weeks.

“This shouldn’t be a bunch of politics,” he added. “It’s insane that the Democrats and the Republicans have turned this into a tug of war.”

Business lobbyists and executives who are fighting to shield American companies argue that employers are currently vulnerable to allegations of not engaging in proper social distancing and potentially being the source of COVID-19 infection.

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