Legislative Report: GOVERNOR SIGNS COVID LIABILITY PROTECTION IN MISSOURI
Today Governor Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 51 & 42 (Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville), the bill establishing limited protection for persons and businesses from COVID liability lawsuits in Missouri.
Ceremonial signings of the bill will occur in Fenton and Jefferson City today, and in North Kansas City on Thursday. The bill will go into effect Aug. 28, 2021.
Under the bill, there are three types of actions possible:
1) COVID-19 Exposure Action
No person or entity engaged in businesses, services, activities, or accommodations shall be liable in any COVID-19 exposure action, as defined, unless the plaintiff can prove (1) The person or entity engages in recklessness or willful misconduct that caused an actual exposure to COVID-19; and (2) The actual exposure caused personal injury to the plaintiff. Also, no religious organization, as defined, (church, synagogue, mosque) shall be liable in any COVID-19 exposure action, unless the plaintiff can prove intentional misconduct.
A further protection for businesses is to post and maintain signs in a clearly visible location at the entrance of the premises or provides written notice containing the warning notice. (Churches, religious organizations are not required to post or maintain such a sign.)
An important point of the bill: Additionally, nothing in this provision shall require a person or entity to establish a written or published policy addressing the spread of COVID-19, including any policy requiring or mandating vaccination or requiring proof of vaccination.
Statute of Limitation: The bill states COVID-19 exposure action shall not be commenced in any Missouri court later than two years after the date of the actual, alleged, feared, or potential exposure to COVID-19.
2) COVID-19 Medical Liability Action
A health care provider shall not be liable in a COVID-19 medical liability action, unless the plaintiff can prove recklessness or willful misconduct by the health care provider and that the personal injury was caused by such recklessness or willful misconduct.
A COVID-19 medical liability action may not be commenced in any Missouri court later than one year after the date of the discovery of the alleged harm, damage, breach, or tort unless tolled for proof of fraud, intentional concealment, or the presence of a foreign body which has no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose of effect.
3) COVID-19 Products Liability Action
No person or entity who designs, manufactures, imports, distributes, labels, packages, leases, sells, or donates a covered product shall be liable in a COVID-19 products liability action, if the person or entity: 1. Does not make the covered product in the ordinary course of business; 2. Does make the covered product in the ordinary course of business and the emergency required the product to be modified during manufacture outside the ordinary course of business, or 3. If the covered product is used differently from its recommended purpose and used in response to the COVID-19 emergency. “Covered product” is defined as a pandemic or epidemic product, drug, biological product or device.
A COVID-19 products liability action shall not be commenced later than two years after the date of the alleged harm, damage, breach, or tory unless tolled for proof of fraud or intentional concealment.
Punitive Damages may be awarded in any COVID-19 related action, but shall not exceed an amount in excess of nine times the amount of compensatory damages.
All provisions of the bill expire four years after the effective date of this act.
The bill creates a new cause of action and replaces any such common law cause of action.
Also, the bill preempts and supersedes any state law related to the recovery for personal injuries covered under a COVID-19 related action unless the provisions of state law impose stricter limits on damages or liability for personal injury. The provisions of this bill shall not expand any liability or limit any defense otherwise available.