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Wisconsin Passes Law Shielding Businesses from COVID-19 Lawsuits

By: Attorney Amanda N. Follett, Schloemer Law Firm, S.C.

Businesses, municipalities, and non-profits are now immune from civil COVID-19 litigation, under Section 8 of 2021 Act 4, signed into law by Governor Tony Evers on February 26, 2021.

Analysis of the Law

The law provides that “Beginning March 1, 2020, an entity is immune from civil liability for the death of or injury to any individual or damages caused by an act or omission resulting in or relating to exposure, directly or indirectly, to the novel coronavirus identified as SARS−CoV−2 or COVID−19 in the course of or through the performance or provision of the entity’s functions or services.”

The law protects—among others—businesses, business owners, employers, employees, agents, and independent contractors of a business. The law also applies to non-profits and clarifies that it applies to both paid employees and unpaid volunteers. The law further protects government entities (such as municipalities) and schools.

Immunity does not apply if the act or omission involves reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.

The law is retroactive to March 1, 2020, except for cases that had already been filed prior to enactment of the law.

Recommendations

Businesses still need to take COVID-19 seriously to protect their workforce, their customers, and their reputations, but they can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there is a law shielding them from predatory COVID-19 related lawsuits.

COVID-19 policies should be reviewed. Many policies were put into place under pressure early last spring, and it is time to review the policies to determine if they still make sense, or if they need to be updated based on the changing landscape.

In addition, the requirement that employers provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired on December 31, 2020. There are tax credits still available for employers who voluntarily provide paid leave, but those are also expiring March 31, 2021. Unless legislation extends leave or tax credits, employers should be aware of the cost of continuing to provide paid leave after March 31, 2021. That being said, there providing paid leave is a valuable incentive to encourage sick employees to stay home, and to keep the rest of your workforce healthy and your business open for business.

Question?

If you have questions about this article, please contact the attorney you normally work with or this article’s author, Attorney Amanda N. Follett, or one of our business law or litigation attorneys at 262-334-3471 or [email protected].

Originally published: March 1, 2021

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law, Schloemer Law Firm makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content. You should consult with an attorney to review the current status of the law and how it applies to your unique circumstances before deciding to take—or refrain from taking—any action.  If you need legal guidance, please contact us at 262-334-3471 or [email protected]