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Arizona House Approves Measure To Make It Harder To Sue Businesses On Pandemic Related Negligence Claims

On a party-line vote, Arizona House Republicans approved a bill that would make it harder to sue businesses over claims of negligence related to the pandemic.

In current law, the question for jurors is whether there was simple negligence. SB 1377 would make it so lawsuits would have to either show gross negligence or willful misconduct—which can be harder to prove. 

The measure also requires a case to be proven through "clear and convincing evidence.'' This is an elevated standard from current law where a jury decides a case based on whether it is more likely, than not, that something amiss occurred.

Proponents say this protects healthcare providers and hospitals from lawsuits because of COVID-related equipment or staff shortages. 

But opponents, like Rep. Richard Andrade (D-Glendale), say that since this measure applies to any business, the people with the most to lose are essential workers. 

"We should be thinking about the workers that are serving every day during this pandemic who are being exposed. And to take away the safety net they need in order to stay healthy in the workplace, this strips all that," Andrade said.

He also said it's already the current standard that employers need to take only reasonable and prudent measures to protect against liability.

The bill now heads back to the Senate.

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Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.