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Guest Column: Coronavirus Lawsuits Could Hamper South Carolina’s Reopening

Mitchell Gunter: “Companies can’t be held responsible for a virus …”

by MITCHELL GUNTER || Each and every resident of South Carolina has been impacted by Covid-19 in one way or another. With over 7,500 cases and 330 coronavirus deaths statewide, South Carolina – and the United States as a whole – has been shaken to the core.

Moreover, the economic devastation caused by the pandemic has shuttered our businesses, depleted our savings, and, in many cases, resulted in furloughs and layoffs for our neighbors, friends, and family members, threatening their very livelihoods. Some local businesses, such as gyms, restaurants, and hair salons, are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate has reached levels unseen since the Great Depression.

Despite these hardships, South Carolinians have endured, and ultimately our communities, businesses, and economy will come back stronger than ever before. Although the danger of the pandemic remains for those at risk with underlying health conditions, it is time for us to begin rebuilding South Carolina’s economy – and getting back to work.

Other states, such as Georgia, which has seen its coronavirus curve flattened over the last two weeks with declining new cases and deaths, are already beginning to open. Since so many remain forcibly closed at home, many South Carolinians have flocked to the Peach State in droves to patronize out-of-state businesses – a reality that has only exacerbated the bleeding of our local economy.

Sen. Lindsey Graham described reopening South Carolina’s economy as “the only answer that’s sustainable,” in Friday interview in Pendleton. Acknowledging that there will be an increase in infections, Sen. Graham stated, “we’ll have the capability to deal with it and manage it.”

A coronavirus vaccine could take years to develop, test, distribute, and administer, or never materialize at all, and South Carolinians in economic turmoil simply can’t wait that long. We must do what Americans have always done in the face of a crisis – buckle down, keep moving forward, and accept prudent risk.

However, many are concerned that a wave of “coronavirus lawsuits” could hamper, or even prevent, South Carolina businesses from reopening at all. In an article released Thursday, The Post and Courier reported that dozens of business groups are “calling on federal legislators to protect employers from legal liability if workers develop Covid-19 after returning to the workplace.”

A coalition of organizations representing manufacturers, truckers, retailers, and others, led by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, are saying that efforts to reopen our state’s economy are threatened by the risk of businesses “’becoming the targets of coronavirus-related lawsuits.” Furthermore, a SC Chamber poll with 2,400 employer responses showed that 64 percent are concerned about “employee safety litigation” and 62 percent are concerned about “potential lawsuits from customers.”

Living life naturally involves accepting prudent or acceptable risk. Every time you walk through a crosswalk, sit behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, or board an airplane, you are assuming risk because the outcome justifies the risk involved. Logically, companies can’t be held responsible for a virus, and it’s imperative that they receive the general liability protections they need.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with plenty of other Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, have stated that protecting America against a wave of unnecessary coronavirus lawsuits has become a top priority of the federal government.

Now, as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Graham has taken the lead on this issue. On Tuesday, he will hold a hearing titled “Examining Liability During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” It’s important that he hold the line on providing legal protections not only South Carolina businesses, but businesses across the United States.

In the coming weeks, many South Carolinians will return to work, and I, like them, will return to work this Monday. The time has come to get America back on its feet, and here’s hoping that Sen. Graham will put the needed protections in place to make it happen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Provided)

Mitchell Gunter is a freelance journalist whose work on political issues in higher education has been featured on national programs including Fox Business, The Drudge Report and “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Mitchell holds a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Clemson University and lives in Mauldin, South Carolina.

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