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HB 1046: McConnell/ALEC Immunity from Coronavirus Lawsuits Comes to South Dakota Legislature

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.


  1. DaveFN 2021-01-11 07:36

    “HB 1046 would forbid suing anybody for negligence that leads to coronavirus exposure.”

    Does that extend to gubernatorial negligence in the face of scientific evidence?

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-01-11 11:49

    Dave, I suspect the governor is already insulated from such a lawsuit by sovereign immunity. However I would love to see an enterprising lawyer assemble a class of South Dakota needs to file a class action lawsuit against the governor and test that idea.

    But there’s the thing: I suspect even without HB1046, it would be really hard already for anyone to go to court and establish that they got sick specifically because of the actions or the in action of the governor. However such a class action suit might work out under the current system, I think the difficulty of pressing such a case against the governor or any given business demonstrates why HB1046 is unnecessary.

    But our allegedly conservative legislators would still rather send their smoke signals to their corporate fascist donors that they will do their bidding no matter what rather than turn their attention immediately to direct assistance that they could render to a population suffering under an uncontrolled pandemic.

  3. o 2021-01-11 11:51

    More Pro-Business protection from the Pro-Life party. Profit first, profit only.

    Essential workers who are allowed (sentenced) to work also fight an up-hill battle if exposed to COVID with workers’ compensation claims. Consumers and workers are disposable commodities under these legal applications.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-01-11 12:06

    Everyone knows you can’t hold Republicans accountable for anything. So they cause someone to catch a disease that will kill them or kill a relative, lifes a beach anyway, accidents happen.

  5. jerry 2021-01-11 17:20

    Averaging over 3,000 covid deaths a day, Who does the boss sue when he or she gets sick or dead? Right to work state just means quick to die state.

  6. buckobear 2021-01-11 17:31

    Why can’t they pass some legislation to get us vaccinated??

  7. jerry 2021-01-11 18:20

    Buckobear nails it! Indeed, the only negligence I see is from the republican legislators. They must think we are all as dumb and lazy as they are. Do your damn job Ma Greenfield, get off your lazy arse and take care of the state and your district. Grab that Weis guy by the ear and drag his sorry behind with you. Get some backbone in to actually work to get things done in the state, stop being so crooked and lazy. We could take your corruption if you actually worked to make the place safer.

  8. mike Livingston 2021-01-11 21:17

    What do bet that donnys widdo kissy poo has been immunized

  9. leslie 2021-01-12 02:26

    I would think Daschle knows a bit about McConnell (Thune).

    DASCHLE counseling Biden/Schumer to work with McConnell:

    “Give Mitch McConnell reasons to be a partner, reasons to be cooperative,” Daschle said. “Do that, I guarantee you, you’re going to accomplish twice, three, four times as much as you will otherwise.” Twitter

  10. leslie 2021-01-12 02:36

    I am pissed in a small state to wait until February for a vax. But I will ‘till the end if she just makes vaccination available for all the front lines immediately, and gets all PPE immediately, and all contact tracing immediately. Otherwise for needless death and illness, class action—big time!

    Get off the frick’in airplane.

  11. Porter Lansing 2021-01-12 12:05

    If I have contract employees that won’t fulfill their contracts because of fear of Covid -19 exposure, at my workplace, and I lose customers and profits because of their refusal to work, then I’m within legal standing to pursue compensation, in court?

  12. Mark Anderson 2021-01-13 17:04

    Porter, I’m sure you don’t have standing anywhere, maybe sitting. So whats the question again?

Comments are closed.