Gov. Tate Reeves has signed a bill giving health care facilities, businesses and others immunity from civil lawsuits filed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Senate Bill 3049 says health care facilities, first responders, schools, nonprofits and businesses that acted in good faith in following public health guidelines in response to the pandemic cannot be sued due to an injury or death if their operations exposed someone to the virus. The immunity also applies to manufacturers of personal protective equipment and other products made to fight the virus.
While the legislation says it should “be liberally construed with regard to immunizing” health care professionals and facilities for acts or omissions, “the immunities provided in this act shall not apply” to those who acted with malice or misconduct.
Former Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, who recently resigned to lead the state’s Public Utilities Staff, authored the bill.
“The last thing our hospitals and others, many of whom have employees who have put themselves at great personal risk, need is to be faced with unfounded legal claims,” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said in a statement. “Right now, we need our healthcare workers, businesses, and communities focused on health and safety, and recovery."
The legislation is retroactive to March 14, 2020, the date Reeves issued a state emergency declaration for the pandemic, and includes a two-year statute of limitations on “any legitimate claim,” Hosemann noted.
The legislation expires one year after the end of the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.
Reeves said Wednesday afternoon that he and other Republican governors have asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to push for similar protections on the federal level as part of another aid package.
“We have a state clause, which is good. The Legislature did an excellent job on that,” he said.