American Board of Trial Advocates expresses concerns over proposed COVID-19 relief legislation Safe to Work Act
The following is a message from Luther J. Battiste, III, National President of the American Board of Trial Advocates:
DALLAS (August 3, 2020) —The Seventh Amendment of the United States Constitution created a key mechanism for holding government and companies accountable for citizen and worker health and safety— the right to trial by jury. The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), comprised of 7,600 plaintiff and defense lawyers, mostly small business owners, is dedicated to preserving this precious right. Unfortunately, provisions of the proposed COVID-19 relief legislation — Safe to Work Act — recently introduced in the United States Senate (Senate Bill 4317) eliminate or severely limit tools that allow juries to hold companies and the government accountable. The Safe to Work Act:
1) Usurps state laws for any claim related to COVID-19.
2) Voids any compensation for retirees, the elderly, children and the disabled, even where the defendant corporation was negligent.
3) Eliminates all claims for negligently harmed patients for at least five years when healthcare providers’ decisions or activities are in any way “impacted as a result of coronavirus.”
4) Gives unfettered power to government at all levels to declare “public health emergencies” and thereby allows employers and businesses to abuse and discriminate against workers without consequence.
5) Requires customers and patients to pay attorneys’ fees of businesses and healthcare providers if they make a claim that is unsuccessful but forces injured persons to pay their own fees even if they prevail in their claim.
While ABOTA recognizes that strengthening our economy is critical, we also believe that citizens’ health, safety and constitutional rights, and particularly the accountability to juries — the ultimate factfinders of fair and reasonable conduct under the Seventh Amendment — should not be eliminated or impaired. When legislation replaces the judgment of ordinary citizens, the people of the United States lose the ability to participate meaningfully in society and government. Moreover, the ability of consumers and workers to hold companies and the government accountable is key to giving them the confidence to return to work and to restore our economy.
ABOTA calls upon Congress to reject this bill and to create a path to uniform national standards for citizens’ health and safety while also protecting and preserving their constitutional rights.