Exclusive: Rep. Hartzler Introduces Bill to Offer Nonprofits Liability Protection during Reopening

Congressman Vicky Hartzler (R., Mo.) speaks at the Values ​​Voter Summit in Washington, DC, October 7, 2011. (Gage Skidmore)

Representative Vicky Hartzler (R., Mo.), who represents Missouri’s fourth congressional district, has enacted a piece of legislation to extend liability protection to nonprofits when states begin lifting their stragglers and stopping orders across the country.

“I think it is very important that our churches and nonprofits have assurance when they reopen that they will continue to be able to provide services to those in need with confidence,” Hartzler said of her legislation in an interview with National Review. “There is concern that some individuals are trying to choose certain directives or other provisions and to sue these organizations, and they are at the forefront of providing the services that communities need, whether it be food pantries, clothing distribution or work in homeless shelters, and certainly hold church services. ‘

The bill, known as the “Service Assurance Act”, states that “a non-profit organization is not liable under federal or state law for any act or omission by the organization regarding damage resulting from exposure or infection from the virus that COVID-19 caused during a public health emergency related to COVID-19. “

Hartzler law also states that non-profit organizations are not free from liability if the “damage is caused by an act or omission that constitutes willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct or a deliberate gross indifference to the rights or safety of the injured person. ” “

The bill provides that the liability protection it provides would replace state laws that are inconsistent with its provisions unless they provide greater protection against liability. Hartzler says she already has the support of a few co-sponsors and hopes there will be two-fold support for the proposal.

“We want to reopen America,” she said. “We want to do it safely, but we also want to ensure that our companies, or in this case our churches and our charities, can do it quickly. Churches are vital to the mental health of this country and deserve protection from lawsuits. ‘

Hartzler says she has spoken to minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., California) about including the language of her legislation in the next round of CARES Act legislation, noting that Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) expressed support for liability protection.

McCarthy and McConnell recently released a joint statement on the GOP priorities for the next phase of the CARES Act legislation, stating that “health workers, small businesses and other Americans on the front lines of this struggle need strong protection against frivolous lawsuits. “

“We cannot allow a second pandemic of opportunistic disputes to enrich litigation lawyers at the expense of Main Street and medical professionals,” they said. “Senate and Republicans of the House agree that this protection will be absolutely essential for future discussions on restorative laws.”

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