Since March, predatory trial lawyers all over the country have been salivating at the prospect of launching COVID-19-related suits against “anyone who inflicted pain and suffering” during the pandemic, and now the heartless Republicans in the Senate are denying them the opportunity of a lifetime to profit off the misery of others.
The fact that the intended targets of these suits will be the very people who were putting their lives on the line to alleviate it — doctors, nurses, first responders, and humanitarian non-profits as well as small businesses — matters not to the professional ambulance chasers. After all, there’s gold in them thar deaths. But it is not just deaths that hustler lawyers want to sue over. Any business or school where someone who caught the coronavirus could find itself in court whether they were negligent or not.
Democrats are blaming the delay in the latest attempt at a stimulus bill on the Republican efforts to ensure that a Safe to Work provision is included in the enabling legislation that would protect against frivolous wrongful death, medical malpractice or professional negligence lawsuits against people or institutions who were not willfully irresponsible and if they made reasonable efforts to follow public health guidelines in providing service to the public during the pandemic.
This legislative caveat proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Sen. John Cornyn would remain in place until 2024. In a true attempt at disinformation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed that it would prevent even legitimate negligence and medical malpractice lawsuits. Even The Washington Post’s fact checker had to call a foul on that by debunking Mr. Schumer’s claim as being a deliberate skewing of fact.
The Safe to Work provisions allow legitimate lawsuits, but the plaintiff will have to prove willful negligence. That would mean that the hustlers will be forced to prove their cases to win rather than merely collect insurance money with a threatened suit; that is anathema to lawyers and professional politicians; Mr. Schumer is both.
Mr. Schumer is concealing his protection for trial lawyers as concern for the non-working stiffs in the country who are losing 600 bucks a month until the stimulus bill is signed into law. This piece of economic blackmail masks the damage that will be done to doctors, hospitals and small businesses which will not be able to afford the insurance premiums that will go through the roof if Safe to Work is not included in the stimulus package.
Let’s look at what this means in human terms if Mr. Schumer succeeds. A customer walks into a store refusing to wear a mask in a state where masks in stores are required. An employee politely offers to give him a mask. Said customer storms out of the store in protest, and later contracts COVID-19. He then sues the store for negligence for not forcing him to wear the mask. The insurance company settles to avoid a lengthy trial, the store’s insurance rates go ballistic and the business fails. Welcome to Schumer World. In a sane Safe to Work universe, a lawyer would have to tell the idiot that he doesn’t have a case.
Mere fear of frivolous lawsuits has already done untold damage in communities across the country. Non-profit organizations such as the Rotary, Kiwanis, VFW and the American Legion — which depend on summer festivals and other events to fund the good work in their communities — have had to cancel them because, even if they try to maintain all the public health guidelines, they will be held liable if someone gets sick.
The moron who spilled hot coffee in her lap in her car at a fast-food drive-through got millions in damages, and has become a role model for thousands of other morons who will manage to get sick through their own stupidity if Mr. Schumer and his fellow Democrats supportive of this abuse of the Americans legal system have their way. The Republican senators pushing Safe to Work are all that stand between the American public and another crippling blow to the economy that will be self-inflicted in this time of crisis.
Good public policy would ensure that stimulus legislation gives relief for those who want to work and cannot find jobs. Instead, the Democrats will reward those who would make more by taking the stimulus than if they returned to work. If Mr. Schumer and company stampede the stimulus bill through without Safe to Work, the new battle cry of our nation’s hustler lawyers will be: “Got COVID-19? Better Call Chuck.”
• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
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