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Fighting frivolous lawsuits

By M.D. Kittle 

Wisconsin Spotlight | Sept 11, 2020 

MADISON — Dozens of business associations, non-profits and local chambers of commerce are urging lawmakers to support legislation that would protect Wisconsin businesses, schools, homeowners and others from frivolous and “predatory” COVID-19 lawsuits. 

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the Wisconsin chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council are among 66 organizations that signed on to a letter asking the Legislature to pass the bill. 

“The legislation would create a safe harbor for all property owners/occupants who are good actors against frivolous lawsuits alleging a plaintiff was infected with COVID-19 at a specific premises,” the letter asserts. “The bill is not business community specific and would protect homeowners, non-profits, schools, universities, and any other premises including outdoor events and festivals.”

State Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) and Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) are circulating the bill for sponsors. 

As the letter notes, the bill would not protect bad actors. Entities that knowingly violate a public health order or spread COVID-19 by “acting in a reckless, wanton, or intentional manner” would not be covered by the exemption. 

In introducing the bill, Kapenga said students around the state are beginning the year in virtual learning settings. Some districts have cancelled in-person education out of fear of being held liable for an increase of coronavirus cases. 

“This bill is needed to restore confidence, so our economy and our schools can return to a level of normalcy,” the senator said. 

“By introducing this legislation, Wisconsin can join a growing list of over a dozen states that have taken the commonsense step toward protecting against predatory lawsuits as a result of COVID-19.”

Read the full letter here.

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