Tennessee’s small businesses are struggling mightily on the road to recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  While these businesses work hard to salvage losses and ensure the health and safety of their customers and employees, another threat looms:  The threat of coronavirus lawsuits.

Businesses are not the only ones who fear the distraction and financially draining effects.  COVID-19 lawsuits are also a real concern for churches, health care workers, hospitals, schools, colleges, and many other entities in the state.

If our economy is going to recover, good actors need liability protection and assurance.  If they follow public health protocols, they should not be subject to unfounded lawsuits resulting from alleged COVID-19 transmission.

I am very pleased that Governor Lee called a special session to consider legislation for protective purposes.  The bill provides civil liability protection from health emergency claims relative to the coronavirus so long as the business or entity complied with or reasonably attempted to comply with public health guidance.   Entities covered under the bill include for-profit and not-for-profit businesses, health care providers, schools and educational institutions, child care providers, religious organizations, local governments, and their employees or volunteers.  This measure shields state health care providers on the front lines of the pandemic who are burdened with liability concerns stemming from the delivery of essential medical care to coronavirus patients.

The legislation, however, does not excuse bad actors.  Protection from health emergency claims does not apply if a claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the covered entity caused damages, injury, or death by acting with gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Another important issue taken up in the Special Session is a bill giving citizens greater access to healthcare and telemedicine services.  This legislation ensures health insurance companies will provide coverage to patients for these services when conducted remotely from their electronic devices, like smartphones, tablets, or computers.

Our most vulnerable citizens, such as elderly and immunosuppressed patients, will benefit the most from this measure.  Telehealth or telemedicine technology is one of the key tools in helping to contain and combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Giving patients the ability to receive medical care, especially routine care, at home eliminates the risk of patients contracting or spreading COVID-19 at a medical facility.

Difficult times are here. Many of our citizens and businesses are suffering.  These bills will help both people and businesses in our communities as they recover from the effects of the pandemic.  I am proud to support them.