KS business community seeks protection from covid-19 related lawsuits

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A proposed bill would protect Kansas business owners from lawsuits related to COVID-19, but the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association (KTLA) and Disability Rights Center of Kansas are calling foul.

KTLA President, David Morantz said, “There is an effort by big business, not just in Kansas but across the country, to push bills that will allow big business to evade responsibility for workers coming back under unsafe conditions and for exposing consumers to a deadly disease.”

Alan Cobb, Kansas Chamber President disagreed saying, “It’s just political rhetoric and nonsense. Of course businesses want to keep their customers and employees safe, or what happens if they don’t? They go out of business, so it’s just nonsense.”

The Chamber's 'Relief & Recovery' plan asks state legislators to limit businesses liability against claims by workers and customers alleging they got COVID-19 in their business.

Cobb said, “We need medical professional and medical care liability. We also need business liability and individual liability protections.”

Morantz responded to that saying, “These bills are not needed. It’s an attempt to get something that big business has wanted for decades and they’re taking advantage of the pandemic to do it.”

Cobb argues the KTLA is trying to profit from the crisis.

"You've already got trial lawyers kind of hovering over looking for causes of action and the fact is if a business is making every effort to follow good guidelines and best practices that we know, they shouldn't be held to an unreasonable level of liability," he said.

Morantz said reopening the economy has to be done responsibly.

“We are forcing workers to go back under unsafe conditions," he added, "Big business wants bills to protect them from workers comp claims and lawsuits along those lines, and that’s terrible for workers and terrible for our economy right now.”

Both sides say they want the economy back on its feet.

“We can open up stores, we can open up restaurants, but it doesn’t mean anything if there aren’t people shopping and buying things off the shelves and sitting at tables," Morantz said, "That’s not going to happen until people feel safe and comfortable returning to stores and returning to restaurants.”

Cobb added, "You really need consumer confidence, employee confidence and business confidence that they can operate without unduly being diverted by a silly or frivolous lawsuit.”

KTLA questions if the bill will apply even after the pandemic is over. Cobb said the Chamber is willing to work on reaching an end date agreement.