The two major credit union trade groups late last week renewed their call to ensure that the next economic stimulus bill includes limited liability protection, even as the issue continued to be a major sticking point in negotiations over the coronavirus crisis response legislation.
“COVID-19-related lawsuits and their consequent exorbitant legal costs could deter entities from reopening and could ultimately cripple businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations both large and small,” the Credit Union National Association and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions wrote in a letter to congressional leaders signed by more than 400 organizations.
The groups said they fear that pandemic-related lawsuits could deter many businesses from reopening. The groups signing the letter ranged from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the American Medical Association.
The liability issue has been an issue of contentious debate. The Senate Republican measure unveiled last week, includes immunity provisions. The House Democratic bill, passed in May, does not include them.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that liability protection must be part of the next bill. The White House has, at times, wavered on that position.
Democrats have blasted GOP leaders for the attention being paid to the issue. “Americans on the brink of eviction are not crying out for a sweeping corporate liability shield,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, in a speech on the Senate floor last week.
And as might be expected, trial lawyers also are opposing any liability shield.
“Sen. McConnell’s blanket immunity is dangerous,” said American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen. “Every time there is a national crisis he pushes for corporate immunity, but if he gets his way this time, it will make it nearly impossible to get ahead of this pandemic and more lives will be lost.” The association is the trial lawyers’ trade organization.