The men and woman of the OFS sector are working to provide America the energy it needs to turn back on. In fact, much of the OFS sector never stopped working through the pandemic. Now, as the country begins to turn back on and head back to work many companies are asking themselves whether they are exposing their company to legal liability by doing so considering COVID-19 is still an active threat.
There is very little case law to guide us because our country has never faced anything quite like COVID-19 before. Due to this uncertainty, and the need to get America back to work, many in the business community, including PESA, are urging Congress to pass a temporary targeted liability shield that would protect companies from frivolous lawsuits as long as they followed OSHA and CDC guidelines. This limited legal protection would allow America to get back to work safely and get the economy churning again.
Time is of the essence as 1,300 COVID-19 liability suits have been filed nationwide since May 1. Legislation may be introduced soon in the US Senate. Unfortunately, the prospects for passage are uncertain. Many House members have expressed concerns with providing such a liability shield so if it were to pass it would likely have to be in a large package like the upcoming stimulus and its inclusion will be a result of a give and take negotiation. Additionally, the prospects for the next stimulus bill appear to be pushed back until late July.
In the short term, absent federal legislation many states are taking up the issue and these actions will likely be the quickest relief for business. Robust liability shield language has already been passed in Oklahoma, Utah, Ohio, Wyoming and North Carolina has passed a partial liability shield for certain essential business. Bills have been introduced in many other states as well.
To ensure the voice of the OFS sector is included in this debate, PESA has joined a coalition along with the US Chamber of Commerce and many other affected trade organizations to push Congress to pass federal legislation. This coalition is working to educate House members and Senators who may be on the fence as to the importance of this shield to allow America to get back to work. Last week, this coalition sent a letter to Congress urging action.
If you have any questions about this issue or what PESA is doing to advocate for it, please contact Tim Tarpley at firstname.lastname@example.org. As we wait for the prospect of either state or federal legislation to give us clear guidance, PESA recommends that all companies follow OSHA, CDC and local guidelines for reopening which can be found on our COVID resources page.