The Beasley Allen Law Firm commends Alabama lawmakers for passing Senate Bill 30 (SB30) this week, offering reasonable liability protection to businesses and nonprofit entities, including churches, health care providers, and educational entities that followed federal and state health and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus). The firm also is pleased that Governor Kay Ivey, who backed the legislation, has signed the bill into law.
“This bill provides the balance necessary for both consumers and business entities as our state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said firm founder Jere Beasley. “It is important to preserve consumers’ access to justice when they are exposed to the virus due to a company’s greed or recklessness. However, businesses that are trying to do what is right based on guidance from state and federal agencies to protect consumers should not be forced to fend off lawsuits that are frivolous and have no merit. Beasley Allen lawyers don’t file frivolous lawsuits and that applies to all litigation.”
The bill, sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr (R – Decatur), also provides protection to cultural institutions operating in Alabama and governmental entities. For health care providers, SB30 specifies that immunity will be provided “for certain health care providers during the performance or provision of health care services or treatment that resulted from, was negatively affected by, or was done in support of or in response to the Coronavirus pandemic or the state’s response to the pandemic.” Further, SB30 is retroactive, applying to coronavirus related lawsuits filed on or after March 13, 2020, when Gov. Ivey first declared a state of public health emergency in Alabama due to COVID-19.
Senator Orr explained that SB30 does not offer blanket protection. The bill still allows lawsuits involving “wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct” that is related to the coronavirus if plaintiffs prove such conduct by clear and convincing evidence.
“Any entity that ignores laws, rules, or regulations designed to protect workers and puts workers at great risk of injury or death will not be protected by this bill,” Beasley added.
The Senate passed SB30 in a 28 to 1 vote last week and the House passed the bill Thursday in a vote of 86 to 4. Senator Orr sponsored a similar bill last spring, which failed to receive final passage because legislative leaders prioritized budget bills in the waning days of a shortened legislative session due to the pandemic.
“The Covid bill is a good piece of legislation as it provides protection to businesses and consumers while specifically protecting the right of workers to receive benefits under the Alabama Workers Compensation Act for work-related sickness,” said Ben Baker, a Beasley Allen lawyer and Secretary of the Alabama Association for Justice.