Missouri is in session: Governor, House Speaker call for COVID-19 liability protections
The 2021 Missouri Legislative Session is off to a strong start as Gov. Mike Parson and new House Speaker Rob Vescovo both took time on the opening day to call for protecting employers against frivolous COVID-19 litigation.
As the session began, Gov. Parson hosted a press briefing regarding the state’s COVID-19 response. When a reporter asked about the governor’s priorities for the session, Gov. Parson responded that COVID-19 liability legislation “needs to be addressed early on.”
“The liability issue is a big issue. I think we’re kidding ourselves. I’m terribly disappointed we didn’t get that done in December in special session. It should have gotten done,” Gov. Parson said.
The governor also listed workforce development, education and broadband infrastructure as priorities.
Meanwhile, House members elected Rep. Rob Vescovo as the new Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives.
During his opening remarks, Speaker Vescovo highlighted the importance of protecting employers from COVID-19 litigation.
“I want all of us to work together this session towards implementing reasonable liability protection for our health care workers and businesses so they can continue to provide vital services they offer without fear of frivolous lawsuits,” he said.
Speaker Vescovo’s remarks included additional priorities he shares with the business community, including improving Missouri’s educational system, better preparing students for the workforce and stopping job-killing lawsuits.
More than 5,000 COVID-19 related legal complaints have been filed nationwide, according to a recent presentation by the law firm Shook, Hardy and Bacon — and it’s believed this is likely a significant undercount.
This flood of litigation has compelled leaders in 32 states to enact some form of protection against these suits. Missouri has taken no action against COVID-19 lawsuits, leaving employers completely exposed.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been leading the charge for action on this issue. Nearly 800 employers and individual Missourians have signed a Missouri Chamber letter urging the state to act.
With session now underway, the Missouri Chamber is urging lawmakers to pass emergency legislation to project employers that follow state and federal safety guidelines to limit the transmission of COVID-19.
“This threat continues to loom over every employer in Missouri — including businesses, schools and health care providers,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber. “This situation is hurting Missouri’s ability to recover from the pandemic. We regularly hear from employers that they are reluctant to reopen and return to work knowing they could be exposed to frivolous lawsuits. This is the Missouri Chamber’s top priority this session and we urge lawmakers to pass this much-needed legislation as soon as possible.”