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COVID Liability Protections Move To House Floor

September 22, 2020

Additional legal liability protections for business and health care providers moved out of a House committee Wednesday morning, but not with unanimous support or the backing of the state’s trial attorney organization.

Changes were made to three bills designed to give businesses who comply with state and federal health regulations some legal protections against COVID-19 related suits, which earned praise from Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids). 
 
LaGrand gave Michigan Chamber of Commerce Vice President Wendy Block a “nine out of 10” during Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee for being collaborative on HB 6030. LaGrand ended up passing on the vote to move the bill and two companion bills, HB 6031 and HB 6032, to the floor. The panel’s other Democrats opted against supporting the bill, as well. 
 
Organized labor is still not in support of these bills that the business community believes is important to prevent their members from being scammed under the guise of COVID-19. Unions also are concerned that employees who get sick with COVID on the job will be left out in the cold. 
 
“We don’t want people to take a shoe box and call it a ventilator. We’re not looking for protections against someone producing toxic hand sanitizer,” Block said. “We simply want a business that is in compliance with state and federal health regulations to have more liability protections.” 
 
Block said the business community is still having “good conversations” with all sides, but that her goal is to “get a bill signed, but we’re not willing to gut a bill to get something symbolic. We want additional protections for our members in the law.” 
 
Likewise, it appears no deal was cut on Rep. Roger Hauck’s (R-Union Twp.) HB 6159, supported by the Health Care Association of Michigan (HCAM) and other health providers to provide some immunity for COVID-19 related claims from March 9 to July 15, but the bill moved out of House Judiciary with a notable change. 
 
Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) won an amendment that allows COVID-19 sick workers to still use the state’s Worker’s Compensation system, if needed, but he was the only Democrat to support the bill’s movement out of committee. 
 
“I’m glad to see it moving,” said HCAM President & CEO Melissa Samuel. “It gives us protections during the most intense time. It’s very necessary and I’m hopeful the Governor is supportive.” 
 
The Michigan Association for Justice still sees the legislation as giving “massive immunity for nursing homes” and are resistant to making things harder for those harmed individuals seeking relief in the courts. 
 
The Hauck bill is a second attempt to provide some COVID-19 immunity for health care providers after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a similar bill from Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Sterling Heights) earlier this year. The Hauck bill is seen as more in line with the types of protections Whitmer put into her original emergency declaration, but skepticism still exists.

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