The Arizona Senate voted Tuesday to give businesses, nursing homes and others a broad shield from lawsuits related to COVID-19, joining the House in approving the measure and sending it to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey for his expected signature.
Senate Republicans approved the measure in a 16-14 party-line vote.. GOP House members approved it Monday on a 31-29 vote with no Democratic support. Republicans said businesses struggled during the pandemic and shouldn’t have to worry about the potential for frivolous lawsuits
The measure is fiercely opposed by consumer advocates and lawyers, who say it will reward bad actors who flouted health guidance and endangered their workers or the public. They say there’s been no deluge of COVID-19 lawsuits.
Business and medical interest groups have pushed hard for a liability shield since the start of the pandemic. The Arizona bill is one of dozens introduced across the country and in Congress.
Ducey called for the measure in his State of the State address in January.
The bill would raise the bar for winning a pandemic-related lawsuits against businesses, health care providers, nursing homes, nonprofits, governments, churches and schools. Instead of proving negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, plaintiffs would have to prove “gross negligence” or “willful misconduct” by clear and convincing evidence.