Schools, businesses seek immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits

As school districts prepare to reopen, many are asking for protection from lawsuits if a student or staff member blames them for catching COVID-19.

A handful of school groups, including the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, are seeking liability protections if someone becomes infected and then later files a lawsuit alleging they didn’t do enough to protect them. 

“This is about flexibility and we need considerations in these extraordinary circumstances,” said Jon Bales, executive director of WASDA.

The association, which represents 421 superintendents in Wisconsin on matters of policy and regulation, said while it’s difficult to prove someone got sick at school they expect some will still seek legal action. 

Without liability protection, school administrators believe litigation would be a distraction as they work to keep schools open during a pandemic. 

Congress is considering adding protections for schools and businesses in the next relief package but lawmakers have yet to finalize what protections would look like.

Supporters of the idea say protections would be limited to the pandemic -- not meant to prevent someone’s ability for suing an employer or school district.

"If someone contracts the virus and a district does all it can do to maintain a safe environment then they would not be subject to litigation," said Bales.

The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce also supports immunity to give businesses greater protection from lawsuits. 

If immunity is not passed on the federal level, WMC wants state lawmakers to take action.

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