March 2, 2021

Coronavirus Civil Liability Immunity Legislation Passes Idaho House

Idaho State Capitol – On Wednesday, the Idaho House passed House Bill 6, which would provide immunity from civil liability related to damages or injury from coronavirus, including for grossly negligent conduct. The legislation now awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

All of the Idaho Democratic House Representatives voted against the legislation and argued that it was unnecessary and too far reaching.

“House Bill 6 is using the heaviest hand of government to strip Idahoans of their right to redress for harm caused by even extreme negligence.” House Democratic Leader Representative Ilana Rubel/(D-Boise) said. “The Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a right to redress for harm, but this bill substantially erodes that right in the context of COVID. We are told we are on the brink of a potential wave of frivolous COVID-related lawsuits, but we see no support for that fear. We are now almost 6 months into the pandemic, there have been over 30,000 COVID cases in Idaho, and there has not been a single tort suit filed arising from COVID exposure. Idaho already has strong protections against frivolous litigation – caps on damages, fees charged to the losing side, existing tort immunity provisions, and the extreme difficulty of proving that any given defendant caused a particular COVID infection. All this bill will do is prevent genuinely meritorious lawsuits to protect victims of negligence, and send a message that a failure to take reasonable care will carry no accountability.”

“My biggest concern with this legislation is that nearly every group seems to be immune from being held accountable to following safety recommendations put forth by health experts.” Representative Melissa Wintrow/(D-Boise) explained. “Teachers and students are being forced to go back to the classroom in many districts, despite their overwhelming fears of getting coronavirus and spreading it to their loved ones. The government is asking teachers, parents, and students to take an enormous risk and then making sure that they are off the hook when Idahoans end up in the hospital or, in many cases, dying.”

“The definitions in the latest civil liability immunity legislation allow an employer, business, or institution to put Idahoans’ lives in danger without consequences.” Representative Muffy Davis/(D-Ketchum). “The sponsor is correct that there is a trust issue in the state, but this legislation will not help Idahoans trust that we are working hard to keep them safe. We need to make sure that Idahoans are able to protect themselves from gross negligence if we want to restore confidence in our institutions and get our economy back on track. Idahoans will not feel confident when the state is allowing immunity from deliberate and reckless disregard for the safety of Idaho communities.”