Idaho becomes 12th state to pass COVID-19 liability immunity law after dramatic 3-day session
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BOISE, Idaho, August 31, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Last week Idaho became the 12th state to pass legislation giving businesses, schools, and other state entities immunity from civil liability for COVID-19 related lawsuits.
Republican Governor Brad Little signed House Bill 6 into law on Thursday following an intense three-day special session that also saw Idahoans march into the legislature to demand an end to the state’s five-month-old state of emergency. Legislators approved a resolution to that end but the Senate then rejected it as unconstitutional.
The dramatic assembly also included hours of often-heated debate in crowded committee rooms and on the floor on four other liability immunity bills as well as HB-6, Idaho News reported.
The House approved HB-6 by a vote of 54-14 on Wednesday afternoon and the Senate passed it 27-7 later that evening to end the session, it reported.
Most significantly, HB-6 “does not condition immunity on a ‘good faith’ effort to comply with myriad (and often contradictory) rules and mandates issued by various overlapping jurisdictions,” according to an analysis by conservative group Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF).
The foundation had vigorously opposed House Bills 4 and 5, which only granted businesses immunity from civil liability “for acts or omissions made in good faith” during a declared coronavirus emergency if they “make a good faith effort to comply with a statute, rule, or lawful order of a government entity.”
Both bills “basically coerced businesses, large and small[,] into enforcing government edicts” which could include mask mandates and occupancy restrictions, said IFF communications director Dustin Hurst.
Under the terms of HB 4 and 5, if businesses “don’t act in ‘good faith’ to adhere to government restrictions, they are left out in the cold as far as liability immunity,” he told LifeSiteNews.
IFF vice president Fred Birnbaum made similar comments to LifeSite’s Lisa Stover in a video interview.
However, HB 4 and 5 “are done” until the house reconvenes in January, when lobbyists for some business groups will likely revive them, Hurst said.
The IFF regards HB-6 as “a good bill” that will protect “small and large businesses from frivolous lawsuits arising out of the pandemic,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“It may not have been the bill we wanted necessarily, but we want businesses to operate safely,” added Hurst.
“A lot of the Democrats suggested that businesses would somehow now ignore all safety precautions and act recklessly,” but the majority of businesses are “working very hard to protect customers, because they need their customers to come back,” he said.
According to HB-6, “a person” is immune from civil liability “for damages or an injury resulting from exposure of an individual to coronavirus.”
The bill defines “a person” as “any entity recognized in this state and shall include but not be limited to an individual, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, trust, association, city, county, school district, college, university or other institution of higher education, or other unit of local government.”
“Person” does not include “any Idaho public health district; the federal government or any of its agencies; the state of Idaho or any of its agencies, except colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education; nor any foreign government or foreign jurisdiction.”
HB-6 exempts from immunity “acts or omissions” that “constitute an intentional tort or willful or reckless misconduct.”
There is still the possibility “that a liberal interpretation of ‘willful or reckless misconduct’ or of ‘intentional tort’ might unfairly penalize businesses that choose to honor the personal health decisions of their customers,” the IFF analysis cautioned.
“But this risk is reduced relative to the broader ‘good faith’ standard.”
Idaho joins Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming in passing laws granting businesses immunity from civil liability for coronavirus-related lawsuits, and governors in Arkansas and Alabama signed executive orders to the same effect, reported the National Association of Home Builders.
The state laws vary but all say that a business is not liable unless it acted with “wanton, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct,” the NAHB stated.
Moreover, governors of 21 states, “including most of the 10 that have passed legislation, sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking that civil liability protections for businesses, schools and health care workers be considered in the next coronavirus protection package.”
State bills granting legal immunity from COVID-19-related lawsuits do not explicitly address liability immunity for pharmaceutical companies for harm caused by the coronavirus vaccines now under development.
American billionaire Bill Gates admitted that such legal immunity is essential because of the risk involved in the hasty production of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine with which to inoculate the entire world, according to a June 13 Corbett Report.
Thanks to a decades-old federal law, though, drug companies already cannot be sued if their vaccines kill or injure people.
Since 1986, vaccine manufacturers have been immune from liability for vaccine deaths and injuries. The only recourse for Americans or family members of Americans maimed or killed by vaccines is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
“According to the vaccine-injured and their loved ones, the program has failed miserably as a litigious, broken system where the injured are up against a government vaccine program, government owned vaccine patents, government health officials who administer the program and government paid attorneys from the Department of Justice,” reports Children’s Health Defense. “There is no judge, no jury of your peers and no discovery. Claimants feel the system is set up for their claims to fail.”
On March 17, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “issued a declaration that retroactively provides ‘liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19,’ including manufacturers, distributors and program planners of ‘any vaccine used to treat, diagnose, cure, prevent, or mitigate COVID-19,’” it stated.