Chris Bishop: Liability protections could save Nevada’s small businesses (Voices)
Since the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nevada’s small business community dedicated itself to making products and offering essential services to meet the needs of families across the state. Now small businesses face a legal threat that could compromise their stability or even drive them out of business.
Trial lawyers could exploit the uncertain legal environment by going after businesses with lawsuits that would blame them for the spread of COVID-19. Most businesses, including real estate professionals I represent, have acted responsibly throughout this crisis, which is why we need Congress to pass targeted liability protections to keep businesses open.
Real estate agents and brokers help individuals secure an essential need: housing. Despite COVID-19, demand for new and existing homes is growing, driving the need for real estate brokerages to maintain operations. Individuals and families still, and always will, need homes.
Federal and state workplace safety guidance changes seemingly every day, evolving with the science to better protect workers and customers from COVID-19. Real estate agents and brokers have adopted new recommendations aimed at keeping themselves and potential homeowners safe. From contactless walk-throughs to digital showings, real estate professionals fully harness technology to ensure homebuyers and renters can safely view properties. When a homebuyer or renter must see a property, agents and brokers have made use of safety measures recommended by the state of Nevada like masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing, among others, to ensure safe and secure showings.
Nevertheless, real estate professionals remain at risk of baseless liability lawsuits from lawyers looking to profit off the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic. These lawsuits are a testament to the fact that no business is safe, not even those providing essential goods or services. Even with the most thorough and advanced safety measures in place, businesses could still be accused of causing the spread of the virus in their community. These lawsuits could force businesses to shut down altogether, which would have a significant impact on local economies and deprive our workforce of critical jobs amid the greatest health and economic crisis of our time.
Nevada’s businesses need protection. The Senate recently put forth the SAFE TO WORK Act, which aims to protect businesses that have gone to great lengths to preserve employee and consumer safety. At the same time, the bill does not provide legal immunity for businesses, clearly leaving room for bad actors who have ignored health and safety guidance accountable.
Regardless of which legislative package Congress eventually settles on, the next wave of federal COVID-19 relief must ensure small businesses aren’t punished for doing the right thing. That’s the best way to protect small businesses, and it’s the best way to help all of us get back to work.
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