Arizona Senate panel OKs new hurdles against pandemic liability lawsuits

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By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services

Citing the unusual circumstances of the pandemic, a legislative panel voted Thursday to provide some protections from lawsuits for medical professionals and business operators.

Senate Bill 1377, approved on a party-line vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would spell out new standards for any legal action filed during a state of emergency.

Retroactive to March 11, when Gov. Doug Ducey declared the current emergency, it would make it more difficult for someone to sue for death or injury.

The vote came despite questions about whether lawmakers were erecting unnecessary — and insurmountable — hurdles in the paths of those who were injured due to someone else’s negligence.

The wording would effectively close the courthouse doors to people with legitimate claims of negligence, said Barry Aarons, lobbyist with the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association.

He suggested that even if SB 1377 became law, it could be voided as running afoul of constitutional protections of the right of individuals to sue for damages.

But Republican lawmakers on the panel instead sided with business and medical interests.

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