HEARING HELD ON CAROZZA-SUPPORTED SMALL BUSINESS PROTECTION LEGISLATION
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (JPR) held a hearing on Senate Bill 210—COVID-19 Claim - Civil Immunity on Tuesday, January 26. Senator Carozza is the lead cosponsor of Senate Bill 210.
Senate Bill 210 was introduced by Senator Chris West (R-Baltimore County) with bipartisan support. This bill would provide immunity from civil liability for claims related to COVID-19 for all who follow applicable federal, state, and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID-19 (COVID-19 rules and regulations) so long as the person’s actions do not amount to gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing.
“As a member of the Senate Small Business Workgroup and after working with hundreds of local small businesses during COVID-19, I personally can attest to the sense of urgency on the part of small businesses to pass this emergency COVID-19 civil immunity bill now as so many of our job creators are suffering under the economic downturn caused by COVID-19,” Senator Carozza wrote in her testimony, noting that she frequently participates in meetings hosted by restaurant and small business industry stakeholders. “Limited liability protection for businesses that have made good faith efforts to comply with recommended State and Federal guidelines is critical to their long-term success, impacting jobs and income.”
“The most powerful testimony comes from those on the front lines of our small businesses, including Real Hospitality Group Manager Ben Seidel, whose hotels are continuing to operate throughout the pandemic and following all health and safety guidelines,” said Carozza.
Mr. Seidel testified in strong support of Senate Bill 210 during the January 26th Senate JPR Committee hearing.
“In all cases, the top priority has been the safety of our associates, guests and vendors as we’re doing all that we can to safely and responsibly keep their doors open, or to prepare to reopen,” Seidel testified during the hearing. “Evolving information about COVID-19 and differences in federal, state, and local guidelines, however, have created legal uncertainty. As a result, companies that diligently implement safety protocols and rely in good faith on public health recommendations and guidelines nonetheless face the prospect of substantial litigation based on virus transmission.”
“Such lawsuits do nothing to reduce transmission of COVID-19 but do threaten the ability of companies like mine to provide much-needed services and opportunities for Americans to return to work. Consumer-facing businesses should be able to rely on the safety guidelines and reopening parameters issued by experts without the threat of liability for implementing that guidance,” Seidel added.
Senate Bill 210 has the support of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce; the Salisbury, Ocean City, and other Lower Shore Chambers of Commerce; the Maryland Restaurant Association; the Ocean City Hotel-Motel Restaurant Association; the Maryland Retailers Association; and the Maryland chapter of the National Federation for Independent Business.