This afternoon Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) filed SB 6, now styled the Pandemic Liability Protection Act. Governor Abbott declared pandemic liability protection as an emergency item earlier in the session, and the bill has a prominent place on Lieutenant Governor Patrick’s list of legislative priorities for the session. Senate co-authors include Senators Bettencourt, Campbell, Creighton, Huffman, Nelson, Paxton, Springer, and Perry. Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano) filed HB 3659, the House companion bill.
Highlights of the filed bill include:
- Liability protection for health care providers, product manufacturers, businesses, religious institutions, schools and colleges, non-profit organizations, and individuals who attempted to follow applicable governmental standards, guidelines, or protocols with respect to minimizing the spread of COVID;
- Standards that allow lawsuits to proceed if the plaintiff can prove:
—in the case of health care providers, that the provider acted recklessly or committed intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct;
—in the case of product manufacturers, that the manufacturer, distributor, seller, labeler, or donor acted with actual malice;
—for businesses, individuals, and other entities with invitees on their premises, that the actor refused to implement or flagrantly disregarded applicable standards, guidelines, or protocols
- Dismissal of a lawsuit unless the plaintiff files an expert report based on reliable scientific evidence supporting the basis for the claim;
- Protection for higher educational institutions from lawsuits for tuition reimbursement because in-person classes were cancelled because of COVID-19;
- Retroactive application to the date the governor declared an emergency (March 13, 2020); and
- Application to any future emergencies based on a pandemic disease.
SB 6/HB 3659 represents the joint efforts over the past year of the TCJL Pandemic Task Force and Texas Alliance for Patient Access. We expect SB 6 to be heard in the Senate in the very near future, so we urge you to contact your elected representatives as soon as possible to express support for the bill.