As the state makes moves to reopen its slumbering economy, the Utah Legislature approved a bill Thursday that would make property owners and business operators immune from lawsuits brought forward by people exposed to COVID-19.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, said the measure will make it easier for businesses to open their doors without fear of facing a “frivolous” negligence lawsuit from their patrons or employees.
The move to protect businesses comes on the heels of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s announcement late last week that the state is working toward a “soft” reopening of the economy toward the beginning of the next month that would allow shuttered restaurants, gyms and parks to resume normal operations, though with new social distancing requirements.
And while SB3007 ultimately gained approval in both chambers, it faced significant debate as some lawmakers worried it sent the wrong message about social distancing or would disincentivize businesses from taking proper precautions.
The Alliance for a Better Utah, a left-leaning group, has criticized the bill as a “blatant power grab” on the part of the Legislature. But senators Thursday described it as a commonsense approach encouraging intergovernmental partnership during crisis situations.