I see two bills so far in which the Legislature is directly addressing coronavirus. Last week I mentioned Senate Bill 3, which would extend an enforcement power on public health orders that I’m not sure our Department of Health has used yet in this pandemic.
Far toothier coronavirus action comes in House Bill 1046, in which our conscientious Republican legislators seek to immunize us all against coronavirus lawsuits.
Introduced by Rep. David Anderson (R-16/Hudson) and co-sponsored by fourteen other Republicans, HB 1046 brings Mitch McConnell’s failed and needless push to shield businesses from liability for coronavirus infections to South Dakota. The corporate-fascist American Legislative Exchange Council started pushing that idea last summer, along with other excuses to use the pandemic as part of ALEC’s drive toward anarcho-capitalism discussed at a July panel discussion on government overreach that included South Dakota Representative Steven Haugaard. HB 1046 doesn’t list Haugaard as a sponsor, but just you wait….
HB 1046 would forbid suing anybody for negligence that leads to coronavirus exposure. To haul someone to court over covid-19, a plaintiff would have to prove [Section 2] “the exposure is the result of intentional exposure with the intent to transmit covid-19.” HB 1046 Section 3 specifically applies that immunity from liability to “A person who possesses or is in control of a premises, including a tenant, lessee, or occupant of a premises, who directly or indirectly invites or permits an individual onto a premises….”
Section 4 explicitly shields healthcare providers from any liability for damages for death or injury related to coronavirus, including if a plaintiff dares contend that her harm was incurred due to a health care provider’s “use or nonuse of personal protective equipment.”
Section 5 excuses anyone who “designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes, or donates” disinfectant, masks, or anything else used to fight coronavirus from liability for harm resulting from their activities unless plaintiffs can prove those parties “recklessly disregarded a substantial and unnecessary risk” of “serious personal injury, death, or serious property damage” or “acted with the specific intent to cause exposure to and transmit covid-19.”
Section 6 covers some legal technicalities, including a clear statement that covid-19 is not an occupational disease—i.e., it does not arise peculiarly due to any workplace conditions and thus does not entitle anyone to workers’ compensation.
Section 7 makes this immunity to liability retroactive to January 1, 2020.
HB 1046 is the first bill out of Representative Anderson’s briefcase this Session. It’s the first bill onto which Reps. Blare, Finck, Greenfield, Koth, Weisgram, and Willadsen and Senators Crabtree, Duvall, Steinhauer, Tobin, and Wiik have been published as co-sponsors.
It’s good to know whom our Republican legislators want to protect first from coronavirus.