Lawmakers consider bill to protect N.H. businesses from COVID lawsuits

Published: 2/9/2021 12:53:22 PM

A bill designed to ward off lawsuits stemming from COVID exposures went before a state Senate committee Monday.

The measure’s backers say it’s prudent to protect businesses from lawsuits over COVID exposure, as well as local governments, schools, and religious organizations, so long as they can show they’ve followed state and federal COVID guidance.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Warren Republican Bob Giuda, told colleagues the Business and Industry Association was the impetus for the bill. But Giuda said he expanded their idea – protecting businesses from lawsuits over COVID exposure – to also shield local governments, schools, non-profits and religious organizations, if they can show they’e adhered to state and federal COVID guidance.

“If they are complying they should not be subject as well, to litigation,” Giuda said.

Meanwhile, local trial attorneys argue that the scarcity of such lawsuits shows the protections are unneeded and too broad. So-called “safe harbor” bills dealing with the coronavirus are now being debated in many states.

“What we don’t want to do is create a bill where the only people that can be sued are essentially people who have licked the face of every customer that walked into the building,” said Tony Sculumbrini, an attorney from Nashua.

No lawsuits over COVID exposures have yet been filed in New Hampshire. The Business and Industry Association says 200 have been filed elsewhere, mostly in New York and California.

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