No corner of this state has remained immune in battling COVID-19. The economic recession that resulted from the lockdowns further threw our communities into disarray. Already struggling communities have been pushed to the brink. But thanks to our timeless spirit, we are finally getting to the other side of this. The ability of our communities to adapt and survive is a testament to the tenacity and know-how that makes our country great.
But unfortunately, while our residents are getting back to business — going to school, shopping local, attending church — the trial lawyers are starting up going about theirs. I’m talking about the multitude of COVID-related lawsuits that will be sure to follow any societal reopening. You see, trial lawyers make a living off of scaring people into settlement: Attack the local mom-and-pop shop with an expensive lawsuit, and the store owners would sooner pay the settlement than take the risk of long, protracted, and expensive litigation. In the meantime, the trial lawyers get rich while Main Street gets shut down … again.
That is why I fully support SB 51, introduced by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer as Missouri’s answer to COVID liability. If passed into law, SB 51 will protect all sectors of our economy from frivolous lawsuits. Many other states are already taking up the issue of limiting COVID liability. Most recently, Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis signed his state’s version of COVID liability into law.
SB 51’s COVID liability protections are even stronger than that of Florida’s and of other states. Of importance for our rural areas, where our faith congregations form the bedrock of our communities, SB 51 provides churches with the highest standard of protection in the entire nation from lawsuit abuses by trial lawyers. But without SB 51, Missouri churches remain just as vulnerable as the rest of the state to COVID liability suits. I do not want to see our local churches go under because of frivolous lawsuits which is why I see SB 51 as vital to helping our state reopen.
Finally, SB 51 guarantees protections to individuals regarding the COVID vaccine. SB 51 provides protections to Missourians who do not want to be forced to receive a vaccine. Without SB 51, a person in Missouri could be compelled to receive the vaccine under current law. This was an important compromise that was worked into the bill.
In short, SB 51 is important to stop the filing of frivolous lawsuits by trial lawyers by providing strong liability protections from COVID suits. These protections will enable our communities to reopen free of the fear of lawsuits which helps us all along in the recovery process. SB 51 is a must-pass piece of legislation if we want our communities to thrive again.
Rep. Dean Van Schoiack is a Republican who represents Andrew and Buchanan counties in HD 9. He was first elected to the House in 2020 and also works as a farmer, auctioneer, and real estate broker.