By Nick Papazyan, Congress Watch Legal Intern
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more American lives than all of the wars since the Korean War– combined. The virus is raging across the country, and we haven’t even begun what scientists call the “second wave.” At a time when we should be prioritizing public health and safety, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) are seeking to immunize businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. On July 16, Public Citizen published an issue brief that exposes how the Chamber opportunistically uses moments of national emergency, such as a pandemic, to advance its anti-consumer agenda. Immunizing businesses would endanger workers, slow reopening of businesses, and give corporate wrongdoers a pass when they fail to take reasonable actions to keep people safe.
Despite the Chamber’s warnings that a flood of coronavirus cases is imminent, its rhetoric has no basis in fact. The issue brief exposes how the Chamber has used Chicken Little’s the “sky is falling” rhetoric for more than 20 years to scare legislators, the media, and the public to limit individuals’ access to the justice system
Yet, the sky never falls. A flood of litigation never emerges.
Months deep into the pandemic, there is no sign of a flood of coronavirus litigation against companies. In fact, the biggest bucket of cases by far are business-to-business lawsuits. The second biggest number of cases are civil rights violations, many of which only seek court intervention to stop alleged civil rights violations rather than award money damages.
Yet, the Chamber continues to push a false and hyperbolic narrative, even when it is unpopular with the public. Sixty-four percent of voters oppose letting corporations off the hook by giving them immunity from liability if it is proved that a company “engaged in unsafe practices.” That includes 72% of Democrats, 64% of Independents, and 56% of Republicans.
As the issue brief cogently points out, “[i]mmunity from liability will not restore our country from this time of hardship.” Instead, make sure that Mitch McConnell knows that lawmakers must prioritize public health over corporate profits. Only then, after businesses are safe for workers, consumers, and patients, can the nation begin to recover.