Michigan House votes to shield employers from virus lawsuits


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A divided Michigan House voted Tuesday to shield health providers and businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits filed by patients, employees or customers, advancing bills that majority Republicans said would give businesses more comfort to reopen and block frivolous complaints.

Opponents have said the measures would make it too tough for negligence victims to sue. Many Democrats voted against the legislation, which was sent to the GOP-led Senate for future debate.

It would protect employers from liability if a worker is exposed to COVID-19 during Michigan’s emergency despite the employer having substantially complied with health rules. Immunity would not apply if an employer willfully disregarded the regulations.

Other bills would:

— retroactively shield hospitals, doctors and other providers from suits covering services between March 10 and July 14 unless there was willful misconduct, gross negligence, intentional misconduct or intentional infliction of harm. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed such a measure in August, though it was broader. It would have extended the immunity through 2020 and also applied to future emergencies.

— require people to meet minimum requirements to sue for exposure to COVID-19. They would have to have tested positive and been hospitalized for at least 24 hours or have been so ill that they could not engage in their usual activities for at least 14 days. A death also would qualify.

— prevent infected employees from reporting to work and bar employers from taking “adverse employment action” against them. Whitmer has issued an order with similar prohibitions.

A message seeking comment on the bills was left with her office on Wednesday.