New Bill Limits Arizona Businesses’ Potential COVID-19 Liability
The Arizona House of Representatives recently passed Bill 2912 which was in-part designed to protect the business from liability claims brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill has moved on to the State Senate for discussion and vote. While still disputed, proponents of the bill insist that the bill would help businesses reopen their doors because it would help clarify the potential liability risk business owners would face from customers and employees.
The bill would prevent authorities that issue business licenses or permits from suspending or revoking a license or permit for acting in accordance with COVID-19 executive orders.
- The bill proposes to shield individual persons from criminal penalties and caps civil fines at $100.00. Not only is there a cap on fines, but the bill also requires a 24-hour period to correct any failure to comply with or refusal to follow state COVID-19 related executive orders.
- The bill would require parties attempting to claim that he or she contracted COVID-19 from entering a business to show that the business was grossly negligent. The gross negligence standard is higher standard than normally applied, requiring clear and convincing evidence.
- The bill proposes to remove strict liability, premises liability, and standard negligence by moving the burden of proof to the party suing a business. Therefore, the bill attempts to add more protection than is typical for Arizona businesses in these uncertain times.
While the main beneficiary of this bill is Arizona business, other organizations will also benefit including:
- Corporations, LLCs, and individuals owning businesses
- Schools including K-12 public and charter schools, universities and other accredited private postsecondary institutions, and vocational programs.
- Religious institutions and churches
- Non-profit organizations
- Individual persons
The Bill would protect the above-mentioned institutions until the later of April 1, 2021, or until the end of the state of emergency order. However, this bill must still pass the State Senate and be signed into law. If passed, the bill will significantly change risk assessment and business practices going forward.