COVID-19 Liability and Vaccine Rollout
This week, I experienced my first filibuster in the Missouri Senate. On Tuesday, Feb 2, my colleagues and I engaged in a 15-hour discussion on Senate Bill 51, which concerns COVID-19 liability protections for businesses, health care professionals, certain manufacturers and churches.
I spoke with a number of constituents who reached out to my office expressing concerns about this legislation. It is important for me to have regular contact with the members of our community to know how they feel about particular issues, and it is encouraging to know you feel comfortable expressing your concerns with me.
That said, I have a few concerns of my own regarding this legislation. First, while it might protect small businesses from frivolous lawsuits, I am concerned about the burden of proof required of plaintiffs in these cases and that it could actually protect bad actors. The plaintiff must prove the individual or entity engaged in recklessness or willful misconduct that caused an exposure to COVID-19 or that the exposure caused personal injury to the plaintiff.
This legislation implements a rebuttable presumption of an assumption of risk when entering a business if there is a warning sign posted about the potential risks of contracting COVID-19. Due to the high burden of proof, this means by going about their daily lives, I believe individuals could potentially be losing their right to bring a lawsuit simply by entering a store. Many Missourians do not have the luxury of having groceries and other household supplies delivered and may not be able to use pickup options, so I am concerned that everyday Missourians will be forced to take this risk to run simple household errands.
Additionally, this legislation states that any COVID-19 exposure lawsuit cannot be brought to court later than two years after the time of exposure. I have concerns about this provision as well. This virus is called a novel coronavirus for a reason. While epidemiologists have encountered coronaviruses in the past, this particular coronavirus has not been studied. This means our nation’s top infectious disease experts are still researching the mid- and long-term effects of this virus. Even now, there are individuals who are no longer infected with the virus, but are still experiencing its effects. I understand the purpose of limiting the timeframe of civil charges, but I am concerned about the repercussions of this provision given our limited knowledge of the virus.
Again, I want to thank my constituents for being active in our state government and contacting me about their concerns. I believe there is a way to pass this legislation without leaving Missourians with limited legal options when it comes to COVID-19 exposure.
This week, I also met with several interested parties to discuss a few of the topics that have been brought up recently in the Missouri Senate, such as education and school choice, mental health care and unauthorized gambling machines in the state. As the legislative session continues, I look forward to meeting with more stakeholders and concerned constituent groups to discuss my legislative priorities and the bills moving through the legislative process.
I know many of you are probably anxious to find out when you will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The St. Louis County government has set up a website, stlcorona.com, for all of your questions concerning the virus, frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and how to pre-register for the vaccine. You may call also the COVID-19 Hotline at 314-615-2660 to ask questions. Additionally, you may visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) vaccine website, covidvaccine.mo.gov, for more information about the vaccine. The DHSS Hotline, 877-435-8411, is also a great resource for any questions or concerns you might have.
Unfortunately, right now, it is a slow process as DHSS tries to vaccinate our state’s most vulnerable citizens and those working in frontline positions. I will stay updated on the vaccine rollout process and provide you with updates as necessary.
Finally, I was honored to present a Black history moment on Thursday, Feb. 4, to recognize Maya Angelou for her numerous contributions to film, literature, the Civil Rights Movement and for raising awareness about racism, sexism and poverty. Her life is the true definition of perseverance. While she is missed dearly, her legacy lives on in those she inspires.
For more information on Sen. Walton Mosley’s legislative actions, visit her official Senate website at www.senate.mo.gov/Mosley.