COVID-19 liability waivers — part of the new normal?

As states reopen and businesses welcome workers and customers back, Americans are finding that the "new normal" ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic includes a new feature — COVID-19 liability waivers.

Waivers that absolve businesses of liability if a person contracts the new coronavirus on its premises may become commonplace across the country, according to CBS News. Theme parks, live events, hair salons and others are asking customers to sign these waivers.

The New York Stock Exchange and restaurant chains also are requiring the waivers, The New York Times reports. Even President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is requiring those who attend its rallies to sign a waiver prohibiting them from suing the campaign or the venue if they contract COVID-19.

But the waivers don't necessarily "immunize [businesses] to lawsuits," liability attorney Richard Bell told CBS News. They are still under obligation to follow social-distancing guidelines and other rules to keep customers safe, Mr. Bell said.

Businesses and even colleges and universities are pushing Congress to provide temporary legal protection, but opponents, a majority of whom are Democrats, say that such protections may allow for reckless behavior, the Times reports.

Also, it is unlikely that there will be a "cavalcade of lawsuits" against businesses, Linda Lipsen, chief executive of the American Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers, told the Times.

"Outside of meatpacking plants, cruises, nursing homes, veterans homes and other hot spots, there is not going to be that race to the courthouse because there are already all of these barriers to getting to court," she said.

 

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