Statement Regarding Coronavirus Civil Immunity Legislation

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A number of bills pending before the Texas Legislature give special privileges under the law to businesses or professionals facing liability due to the coronavirus. 

Ware Wendell, Executive Director of Texas Watch, issued the following statement in response:

"Our non-partisan citizen advocacy organization advocates for the rights of workers and patients. We value our courts as a coequal branch of government and appreciate the role they play in carefully resolving disputes and protecting our communities through the enforcement of codes of conduct. Traditional tort law protects individuals and businesses that conduct themselves reasonably, holds those that violate established standards to account, and helps to ensure safety for us all in the process.

"The civil immunity approach embodied in coronavirus-related legislation before the Texas Capitol concerns us because we fear it could impact the rights of workers, patients, and especially nursing home residents who are unable to protect themselves whatsoever due to their circumstances. This threatens justice for those affected, but it also impacts safety for us all.

"Proponents cite fear of illegitimate coronavirus lawsuits as a rationale for the legislation, but Texas law already possesses many tools to dispose of any unsupported lawsuits early on in the dispute. The truth is very few coronavirus-related injury suits have been filed. Texans who can trace their coronavirus exposure to a particular place -- and are able to prove it is the result of unreasonably unsafe conduct on the part of a business or professional -- must retain their full complement of constitutional rights, including the right to trial by jury enshrined in our national and state constitution. Civil immunity may vitiate this important right.

"Essential workers deserve essential protections. The same holds true for patients, nursing home residents, and members of the purchasing public. All incentives should be aligned toward safety and infection control; that is how we escape this terrible pandemic and restore our economy."


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