by Barbara Quandt
Liability Protection is one of the key issues expected to come up in the 2021 Indiana Legislative Session that begins just after the New Year’s holiday. At a time when many Indiana small business owners are on the brink of closing their doors forever, it is imperative that lawmakers take this very important step to protect them from frivolous lawsuits. A recent NFIB survey found that if economic conditions do not improve in the next six months, one in four small business owners will go under. Yes, you heard that right. One in four mom and pop Hoosier stores could be gone forever.
That’s why they need legislators to step in: trial lawyers are licking their chops, eager to take advantage of struggling small business owners who are already strapped thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and don’t have the money to pay for their own lawyer. Our small business owners are doing everything they can to protect their employees and their customers. They’re spending thousands of dollars and following city, state, and federal regulations to keep their doors open and Indiana’s economy humming along. The last thing they need is a greedy trial lawyer showing up and threating a lawsuit and a court trial unless they hand over a quick payment. It’s nothing but a shakedown intended for owners to settle rather than battle it out in court.
NFIB research shows 70% of small businesses are very concerned about liability protections. Small businesses are particularly sensitive to frivolous legal action. Even when doing everything correctly, simply fighting such a lawsuit could put the viability of the business in danger. Frivolous lawsuits can be extremely costly to a small business and its owner, financially and emotionally. The last thing these beleaguered folks need is to fend off a costly frivolous lawsuit. If they are still in business, many may be but one frivolous lawsuit away from closing for good, taking livelihoods and the jobs they create with them.
Liability protection would not be extended to those businesses exhibiting gross misconduct or negligence. Liability protection would only apply to those that follow federal, state, and local guidance. Therefore, if a business makes a good faith effort to follow guidelines to safeguard employees and customers, it should be protected from frivolous lawsuits.
Legislators here in Indiana are smart. Lawmakers in Washington D.C. failed to pass liability protection in the COVID-19 federal relief bill. In the eleventh hour of negotiations it was punted by Congress. That’s why we need Hoosier lawmakers to pass liability from frivolous pandemic-related lawsuits for mom and pop shops as they struggle to recover from the crisis-driven recession. This legislation is a no-brainer. Our small business are counting on Indiana lawmakers to do the right thing and keep Indiana’s economy going. That’s why they expect to see this important piece of legislation fly through the legislature this upcoming session.
Barbara Quandt is the Indiana Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.