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Legislature working to protect businesses who reopen during COVID-19

Empty restaurants in Arizona
Posted at 3:23 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 22:43:53-04

PHOENIX — As businesses reopen, many business owners are wary and afraid they'll be accused by some of spreading COVID-19, even when they follow the rules to be open. Those businesses are hoping the legislature will protect them.

"That's just another added worry. It actually concerned us during the take out period," Al Slaten owner of four Biscuits restaurants in the Valley.

Monday, you could sit down and have breakfast or lunch for the first time in weeks. Most of the customers however, just wanted it to go.

"Businesses that have been complying shouldn't be held liable for anyone who may come along and say they may have caught it at your restaurant," Slaten said.

Slaten's concern is not lost on lawmakers. "That is very real and that's going to happen," State Senator Eddie Farnsworth (R) Gilbert Dist.12 said Friday on the floor of the State Senate.

In an appeal to keep the Senate in session, Farnsworth said lawmakers needed to stay and pass liability protection for businesses and churches who are taking the risk of reopening.

"There's going to be lawsuits claiming they were in a restaurant and for some reason, people weren't 6-feet apart and they got COVID-19, and that restaurant is liable," he said.

The Senate adjourned, but it can come back into session. The House remains on recess. Reportedly leaders are working behind the scenes to draft a liability protection bill.

"Maybe we can have a special session," State Senator David Livingston (R) Peoria Dist. 22 said. "Maybe we can get the House and the Senate and Governor on board and come back with a liability bill. I would that. We would do so much for the state by doing that."

Whether it will take a special session or not, a liability protection bill will be one of the first. If not, it would be the first action lawmakers take to deal with the fallout from COVID-19 in Arizona.