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The Coronavirus and Liability Concerns for Small Business Owners

New York faced numerous challenges during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. The state and all its localities continue to deal with issues related to the social and economic fallout. Small business owners, in particular, have many concerns about their tenuous fiscal situation.

Besides worries about revenue, many proprietors share concerns about liabilities. Self-insured entrepreneurs wonder if they will face financial catastrophes if hit with a lawsuit related to the coronavirus. In the United States Senate, draft legislation seeks to provide liability protections for businesses and other entities. The protections would protect business owners who were not “grossly negligent” or “intentionally engaged in harmful behavior.”

Specifics have yet to emerge that defines these terms. Likely, a business owner who wantonly violates safety suggestions and state, local, or federal laws and regulations would probably find him/herself in trouble.

Small business owners may even face worker’s compensation claims from employees. Such claims may create complexities for the business owner.

In a locality where gyms or restaurants are ordered closed, a business owner who violates the rules and opens “in secret” would probably have a difficult time escaping liability claims. The same may be said of an eatery that ignores mandates rules. If a rule exists that restricts how alcohol is served, failure to follow regulations could be deemed an egregious and blatant violation. So might outright disregard for enforcing mask-wearing, social distance, and occupancy capacity rules.

What about a business owner who follows all rules, and, yet, customers and workers suffered from virus exposure? Congressional legislation appears to attempt to shield such a business owner.

Proposed legislation is not the same thing as legislation signed into law. Entrepreneurs may find it worthwhile to speak to an attorney who understands current liability laws.

If facing litigation, an attorney could offer help for self-insured business owners. The attorney might seek a dismissal of the suit or craft a defense for worker’s compensation claims.

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