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Law Students Mobilize Against Corporate 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.

STUDENTS PUSH UNIVERSITIES TO OPPOSE CORPORATE IMMUNITY: Today, the People’s Parity Project (PPP) – a network of law students – announced a nationwide mobilization of law students fighting efforts to grant companies, including colleges and universities, immunity for coronavirus-related lawsuits. PPP explained that granting immunity to universities if they refuse to take reasonable steps to protect students and staff when they reopen could increase the spread of the virus, force schools to shut down again and endanger thousands of workers, students and other community members. Student organizers at New York University School of Law wrote, “We want to return to campus when it is safe and healthy to do so, and with the proper precautions in place. Preventing corporate immunity will ensure that schools and corporations also share that interest.”

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION UNDERMINING SCHOOL HEALTH GUIDELINES AND ACCOUNTABILITY: In a Washington Post op-ed, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Directors Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan and David Satcher, as well as former acting CDC head Richard Besser, expressed grave concern that the Trump administration is undermining CDC guidance on reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Even as the administration is downplaying the importance of these safety recommendations, several Republican senators are proposing to override state liability laws that hold schools accountable if they fail to take reasonable steps to keep students, teachers and staff safe. Working to neuter both federal regulatory standards and state negligence standards is an extraordinary abdication of leadership responsibility in a time of crisis.

SCHOOLS NEED FUNDING TO STAY SAFE, NOT LEGAL IMMUNITY: Without additional funding, schools won’t have adequate protective gear, cleaning supplies and ventilation systems needed to keep students, teachers and staff safe, education groups are warning. U.S. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill in May that included $90 billion to help schools cover the costs of cleaning, transportation and new technology. And U.S. Senate Democrats recently unveiled legislation that would provide $175 billion for K-12 schools to purchase protective equipment, keep students spaced apart in classrooms and improve virtual learning. While some Senate Republicans are reluctant to talk about providing the funding needed to make schools safe, they’re all too eager to discuss granting schools immunity from liability for harm if they fail to take reasonable precautions. This approach won’t curtail the risks at schools; it will exacerbate them.