HARRISBURG – PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of H.B. 1737, legislation which included temporary safe harbor protections against unwarranted COVID-19 related lawsuits for employers complying with public health guidelines.
“Businesses across the Commonwealth struggling to simply survive were dealt yet another blow today as Governor Wolf vetoed critical liability protections; and instead backed opportunistic trial lawyers anxious to profit from this crisis. This threat is not hypothetical, Pennsylvania employers are already being targeted with unwarranted lawsuits – a number which is expected to increase in the months and years ahead given the large sums of advertising the trial bar is dedicating to the effort, along with the fact that there is a two year window to file such suits.
“The Governor’s recent Executive Order might mention liability protections, but the language falls short of what is needed and many businesses and organizations are still trying to determine exactly what protections the order does afford. Many employers are left vulnerable, including the companies working to produce the vaccines that are so desperately needed.
“House Bill 1737 was not revolutionary. The governor’s description of the bill is completely off the mark. The safe harbor protections contained in the legislation were narrow in scope, temporary and would have incentivized best practices by still holding bad actors accountable. Across the nation, nearly 30 other states have implemented some form of either product or exposure liability protections. These types of protections are broadly supported and a top priority for small businesses, non-profits, educational and health care institutions.
“As we collectively work to fight COVID-19 and try to sustain our economy, we are disappointed the governor chose to stand with those attempting to profit off the pandemic over what’s in the best interests of the state’s economic recovery and public health.”
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state’s largest broad-based business association, with its statewide membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.