With the economy largely reopened, but COVID-19 cases continuing to fluctuate, some businesses are concerned about lawsuits from customers and guests who may be exposed to, and subsequently become ill from, the coronavirus while on their premises. In June, the Kansas Legislature addressed these concerns when it passed the COVID-19 Response and Reopening for Business Liability Protection Act, which, among other things, grants Kansas businesses immunity from COVID-19-related civil claims if they substantially comply with required “public health directives.” Here are three things Kansas employers should know about the Act.
(1) What does the Act do?
The Act grants immunity from liability in a civil action for a COVID-related claim to any person conducting business in Kansas who substantially complies with required public health directives. The Act broadly defines “person” to include individuals, for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations, and government entities. One example of a situation that may be covered is when a patron dines in at a restaurant and later tests positive for COVID-19. Even if the patron can show causation by linking her COVID-19 exposure to the restaurant, then the Act may shield the business from civil liability if the restaurant substantially complied with applicable public health directives.
(2) What are “public health directives”?
The Act defines “public health directives” as any federal, state, or local statutes, rules, and regulations regarding COVID-19 that entities or individuals are required by law to follow.
(3) How long is the Liability Act in effect?
The Act retroactively applies to claims arising on or after March 12, 2020 and expires on January 21, 2021. The retroactive application of the law likely will be subject to legal challenges.
Kansas businesses should position themselves to qualify for the Act’s liability protection by making a good-faith effort to substantially comply with relevant health directives. Employers should stay updated on CDC, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and county health guidelines, and implement and follow them when feasible.