POCA, WV (WOAY) – Delegate Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam, today said he would like legislation designed to protect teachers, school systems, churches and businesses from frivolous lawsuits to be considered in a special legislative session as soon as possible.
Higginbotham, who is Vice-Chairman of the Education Committee and a member of the Small Business and Economic Development Committee, said the legislation is necessary to protect essential institutions and organizations from potential COVID-related lawsuits.
“As we push to reopen schools, churches and businesses, we need to protect people who are acting in good faith and following all guidelines from being sued should someone who has used their facilities contract COVID-19,” Delegate Higginbotham said.
Delegate Higginbotham has been working with House and Senate leadership and fellow lawmakers to work on a potential bill that would provide safe harbor legal protections for organizations and businesses which would shield these groups from potential legal claims.
“We know that while we have guidelines to help reduce the risk of coronavirus spread, these guidelines cannot completely prevent the transmission of this virus,” Delegate Higginbotham said. “What this bill would do is protect those groups that are doing their best to follow the latest health guidelines from a lawsuit should someone try to sue them for contracting COVID-19.”
Delegate Higginbotham said the bill would not protect businesses or organizations that recklessly disregard guidelines or act in an intentional manner that could result in coronavirus exposure. But it would shield those who are acting in good faith to follow the rules.
“This is not about protecting bad actors from the consequences of their actions,” he said. “This will simply provide comfort and security to people who are doing their best to navigate these uncertain times.”
Higginbotham said the legislation is especially important given the coming school year.
“We need to make sure our education institutions, teachers and school professionals are legally protected from civil actions while trying to carry out the duties of their job,” he said.
“While Congress is debating similar protections at the federal level, we need to go ahead and get this put in place at the state level so our people can continue doing their best to get things reopened at the local level,” Delegate Higginbotham said. “I urge Governor Justice to put this legislation on a special session proclamation as soon as possible.”