Opinion - Markets

Op-ed: Liability reforms for employers are critical to states’ economic recovery

David Sampson
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Amidst lives lost and prolonged hardship, the pandemic response ushered in a wave of unprecedented political polarization that has pained the country.

But states across the country are finding new cause for broad bipartisanship in building the foundation for economic recovery.

Indeed, last month, North Dakota became the 43rd state to advance employee safety measures and liability protections for employers, which are key elements for moving forward together. As public health and safety guidelines changed throughout the pandemic, businesses rose to the occasion, working to adhere to constantly changing government guidance and implementing new measures and precautions aimed at protecting customers and employees.

These private sector organizations remain central to the Covid-19 response. Still, in 2020 and 2021, thousands of Covid-19-related lawsuits were filed against a wide range of businesses, including airlines, software companies, cruise lines, shopping centers, restaurants, manufacturers, hotels, medical providers, and schools. Without smart policy action, these suits posed a severe threat to our fragile economy. 

In response, states across the country have championed bipartisan, innovative ways to give more confidence and control over how businesses and healthcare providers can protect their employees and reopen safely for their customers and communities. These public policy efforts provided much needed relief to not-for-profit organizations, schools, places of worship, and local governments. In addition, many states have acted to protect the companies that took extraordinary measures to design, manufacture, label, sell, and distribute personal protective equipment, cleaning, and disinfecting supplies when we needed them most. 

 As the pace of our reopening increases, these new laws provide businesses and community organizations increased peace of mind and greater clarity on how to follow public health guidelines. And importantly, they offer additional protection from the threat of frivolous lawsuits.  

 Persistent and entrenched litigation abuse has a detrimental impact on the ability of businesses to grow and provide jobs and on the ability of communities to thrive. The employer liability protections adopted by numerous states will enable businesses to resume operations in a way that protects employees and customers.  At the same time, these reforms will help reduce the skyrocketing tort costs that fall on each household, estimated at an average of $3,329 annually nationwide before the pandemic hit. 

Members of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association are proud to insure the many private sector organizations and responders supporting our nation's fight to recover from this unprecedented pandemic. We look forward to continuing to help provide financial security to families, individuals, communities, and businesses.  

 The meaningful legal reforms established in 43 states are essential to rebuilding our economy and getting people back to work. Insurers commend state lawmakers for their leadership in prioritizing employee safety and prudent employer liability protections. We encourage federal lawmakers to support these efforts and build on the work of the states in the same bipartisan manner. 

David Sampson is the president and CEO of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), the trade association representing nearly 60% of the U.S. property casualty insurance market.