Protecting Businesses From Predatory Lawsuits

As cases of COVID-19 increase, the Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin’s leading dairy lobbying group, is urging the state Legislature to take up a bill that would protect businesses and others from predatory lawsuits over outbreaks of the illness.

The bill would create a liability exemption for individuals as well as entities like businesses and schools if they follow public health orders and take reasonable precautions to protect the public.

The exemption does not protect bad actors who knowingly violate public health orders or act recklessly, said the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, and Reps. Mark Born,
R-Beaver Dam, and Dan Knodl, R-Germantown. Other states have taken similar legislative steps.

DBA President Tom Crave said the threat of lawsuits stemming from a COVID-19 outbreak is a concern for Wisconsin’s dairy farmers and related businesses. Like other business sectors in the state, the dairy community has faced significant challenges due to the pandemic, he said.

“Our members have continued operating the very best they can to keep our dairy farms and other facilities safe for our employees while also working to maintain food production and keep milk, cheese and butter available for customers,” Crave said. “But despite all the efforts to prevent an outbreak, we know there are no guarantees. These are extraordinary times and sometimes circumstances can be beyond our control.”

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau’s analysis of the bill:

This bill creates a liability exemption relating to COVID-19 for owners, lessees, occupants, or other individuals or entities in control of a premises who invite or permit another person onto the premises.  Under the bill, an owner, lessee, or occupant or other individual or entity in control of the premises is immune from liability for an injury of a person who is exposed to COVID-19 on the property, except where the owner, lessee, or occupant knowingly violates an emergency public health order or engages in reckless, wanton, or intentional misconduct.