Oklahoma businesses responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with the Oklahoma standard. Manufacturers converted facilities to produce needed supplies, nonessential businesses shut down operations with serious financial ramifications and Oklahomans across industry sectors responded to deliver health care and essential services. They did their part to minimize and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.
Now, personal injury lawyers are salivating at the various opportunities COVID-19 has presented for legal windfalls and lawsuits have already been filed across the country. As our state opens back up, let’s not pay our fellow Oklahomans back with a lawsuit.
Any business or entrepreneurial endeavor could be the target of a lawsuit. The impact will be felt not only by the business community, which is already facing economic uncertainty, but by all Oklahomans. Our livelihoods hinge on the ability of the state getting back to business without unprecedented liability risks.
The Legislature has delivered by finding solutions for the many implications created by the pandemic, including liability protection.
Rep. Terry O’Donnell and Sen. Julie Daniels have been leaders in the charge to reasonably limit liability related to COVID-19. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall have prioritized thoughtful liability relief and authored two bills to protect businesses. Senate Bills 1946 and 1947 provide lawsuit protection to those acting in good faith on the guidance of the state and federal government, while ensuring intentional bad actors can still be held accountable for their actions. These bills will protect businesses that reacted to a crisis by making face masks and fast-tracking treatments.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a community effort. At the State Chamber, we are thankful for the businesses and for the work of the Legislature to protect our innovative businesses.
Oklahoma will likely experience some decline in revenue in the years ahead due to the crash in the energy sector and the COVID-19 pandemic. A quick economic recovery will provide jobs and revenue for the state to continue providing core services.
Frivolous lawsuits will only jeopardize our economic recovery from these devastating events. We need to provide reasonable liability protection in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and allow Oklahoma businesses to have the chance to reopen safely and with confidence, further driving a successful economic comeback for our state.
Note: This article was first published in The Journal Record on May 8, 2020.