COVID-19 Reading List

June 22, 2020

Daryl Joseffer and Jonathan D. Urick, U.S. Chamber Litigation Center

As Congress continues to debate federal coronavirus liability protections, reopening businesses are increasingly turning to liability waivers to minimize their legal risk.

The Associated Press reports that many businesses “are requiring customers and workers to sign forms saying they won’t sue if they catch COVID-19” because they fear lawsuits “even if they adhere to safety precautions” from the CDC and state public-health officials.  “Lawyers say many business clients are asking about the waivers,” which are becoming prevalent “at small businesses such as hair salons and gyms where it’s hard to maintain social distancing.”

According to the New York Times, it’s not just salons and gyms requiring liability waivers, but amusement parks, real estate businesses, and even President Trump for his upcoming campaign rallies.  Athletes returning to play are also being required to sign liability waivers.  Noting the broad trend, CBS News reports that liability waivers “are expected to become commonplace” in many ordinary settings.

MarketWatch examines what an effective liability waiver should look like.  According to the interviewed experts, above all, a waiver “should be specific and in clear language.”  Even so, they warned, waivers may not always be upheld in court.  The Philadelphia Inquirer likewise considers how small businesses can reopen while minimizing liability risk, offering some general recommendations from experts.

The Hill reports that proponents of coronavirus liability protections “argue that the proliferation of waivers shows there’s demand for a federal standard.”  According to Harold Kim, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, “We need a national standard that protects businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits so everyone knows the rules of the road.”  CNBC also notes that small businesses are strongly pushing for liability protections at the federal level.