Businesses could stand to lose billions of dollars from lawsuits related to COVID-19. The Indiana Chamber’s top priority for the upcoming legislative session will be to provide businesses some protections.
Business owners worry about lawsuits from employees claiming they brought COVID-19 home from work and infected those living with them. The so-called “take-home” cases rely on previous legal arguments made in asbestos litigation.
Chamber president Kevin Brinegar said lawsuits are being filed at both the state and federal level. He said state lawmakers need to pass legislation to protect Hoosier businesses and institutions.
“We can't have employers, schools, health care facilities, being sued and bombarded with lawsuits because someone was in their facility a week, two weeks ago, has now contracted COVID and is claiming that they caught it at that facility, when we have no idea what other places and interactions those individuals have had since that time,” said Brinegar.
Other Indiana Chamber legislative priorities include raising the cigarette tax and creating a work share law that could give the state access to more federal dollars, a potential help to the state's finances during economic downturns.
Work share programs allow employers to reduce workers’ hours while they continue to receive benefits and get unemployment dollars.
Brinegar said for states with work share, the CARES Act is paying the partial unemployment benefits under the program for most of the 2020.
“That means that had we been a work share state, we wouldn't have had as big a draw on our Unemployment Trust Fund,” he said. “And we wouldn't be borrowing as much money from the federal government as we are currently as our UI Trust Fund has been totally depleted between the beginning of the pandemic and sometime in late September and early October.”
Brinegar said he’s seen some optimism about such legislation, but still believes it will be a big push to have passed.