Few Lawsuits, Lack of Support Means McConnell’s Immunity Proposal Is Dead on Arrival

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, NOT IMMUNITY

Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a daily tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. Also refer to our tipsheet on misleading claims from industry groups and conservative lawmakers. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

DEARTH OF LITIGATION UNDERCUTS MCCONNELL’S CORPORATE IMMUNITY PROPOSAL: Building on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s penchant for flood-based metaphors, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) built into their new bill the statement that businesses “confront the risk of a tidal wave of lawsuits.”  However, a lack of litigation contradicts their claim. According to the litigation tracker run by the firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, of the 3,727 coronavirus-related cases that have been filed since March, just 185 – less than 5% – fall into the personal injury category that McConnell claims to be worried about: claims based on exposure to COVID-19. Instead, the bulk of the lawsuits involve insurance and civil rights claims. The disconnect between the facts and the purported need for corporate immunity shows that the new bill is not a serious effort to confront the crisis facing the nation, but a tool to grant favors to large companies.

MCCONNELL’S PROPOSAL LACKS SUPPORT: The coronavirus bill unveiled Monday by U.S. Senate Republicans, which includes McConnell’s corporate immunity proposal, is being dismissed as a non-starter by Democrats. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the package “isn’t serious.” “It’s pretty clear they don’t have 51 votes in the Senate for a proposal,” U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Monday night after a meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the speaker’s office. In response to the release of McConnell’s immunity proposal, University of Chicago Law Professor Daniel Hemel, a scholar on liability issues, said yesterday on Twitter that “the liability provisions in McConnell’s ‘HEALS Act’ do not reflect a serious attempt to address problems with the tort system. This is pure political posturing.”

136 LAW PROFESSORS OPPOSE CORPORATE IMMUNITY: A group of 136 law professors from across the U.S. sent a letter today to congressional leaders urging them to “ensure that our courthouse doors remain open to all Americans for injuries they suffer from negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Granting corporations legal immunity would prevent ordinary Americans from holding businesses accountable in court when they harm workers and consumers. “Advocates of immunity talk about everything else except justice for victims. Enacting a liability shield violates the core principle, enshrined in many state constitutions, that every wrong must have a remedy. An immunity shield would leave workers, consumers, and their families with no remedy, while corporations will be free to cut corners on safety to bolster their bottom line,” the letter reads.