Gov. Lee Considers Calling Special Session of Legislature to Pass Bill Giving Businesses Protection From COVID-19 Lawsuits


Gov. Bill Lee is thinking about calling the Legislature in for a special session to pass a bill to provide retroactive COVID-19 legal protection for businesses, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said.

The General Assembly ended their session on Friday without the House passing the Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act. It received 46 of 50 votes needed. House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) questioned whether the measure was legal under Tennessee’s Constitution regarding the impairment of contracts. (The Senate had approved the bill.)

Lee’s spokeswoman Laine Arnold told the newspaper more information about a possible special session would be released this week.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally took issue with Lamberth’s opposition. He tweeted, “@WilliamLamberth, together with the bill’s sponsor, @StateRepCurcio, cobbled together a cabal of Democrats and attorneys to defeat the legislation and place our entire economy in danger. It was irresponsible and dangerous.”

McNally also tweeted, “I would absolutely support a call for a special session by our governor for this issue and this issue alone. As a matter of fact, Leader @SenJohnson and I discussed that very prospect with  @GovBillLee in his office last night shortly after the legislation was defeated.”

The bill that was considered is similar to those in states that began to reopen from the COVID-19 lockdown, as employers said they need protection from lawsuits, the Insurance Journal reported. Critics have said that would add another roadblock for workers seeking payment from companies that placed them at risk.

The bill said qualifying businesses would not be liable for any “damages, injury or death” from allegedly contracting the disease unless the claimant proved “gross negligence or willful misconduct” by the employer not following public health guidelines. The law would have covered any lawsuits between March 5, when the first case was reported in Tennessee, to July 1, 2022.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.




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2 Thoughts to “Gov. Lee Considers Calling Special Session of Legislature to Pass Bill Giving Businesses Protection From COVID-19 Lawsuits”

  1. William Delzell

    It would be in the best interests of businesses who reopen to see to it that their work-places provide safe and hygienic work environments and that these businesses pay decent wages, benefits, including hazardous pay for its employees. The employees, by accepting offers to return to work, are taking a big risk for the rest of us. They deserve the respect by their employers and by us, their customers. If they should die as a result of deliberate neglect by their employers to provide a safe environment, at least two scenarios could result: they could become too sick to work and hard to replace, leaving the customer with less or no service; or, they could strike and lead to a major work stoppage. Let’s be sure they have save work environments and decent pay so as to avert these crises.

  2. Julie

    Creates a roadblock for workers seeking payment from companies who put them at risk? Since COVID is likely to be seasonal eventually we will all have been exposed to it. Why would we want to bankrupt our businesses and state by opportunists seeking money? This is the right move.