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Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg

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SOUTH DAKOTA CONTINUES TO ADVOCATE FOR FEDERAL PANDEMIC LIABILITY PROTECTIONS, URGES CONGRESS TO CONSIDER SAFE TO WORK ACT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday, August 6, 2020

 

PIERRE, S.D.Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, along with 20 other state attorneys general, this week co-signed a letter to the U.S. Congress, authored by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, urging the adoption of the protections contained in the Safe to Work Act. This is the latest action by Ravnsborg and his colleagues to help mitigate the threat of frivolous COVID-related litigation for much-needed goods and services while still ensuring victims have legal options where appropriate. In the wake of this unprecedented crisis, the extension of appropriate civil liability protections is needed at both the state and federal levels for businesses, manufacturers of personal protective equipment, first responders, healthcare workers, healthcare facilities, members of law enforcement and other individuals and entities.

 An excerpt from the letter is below: 

The undersigned Attorneys General, representing 20 states, are encouraged to see the introduction of S. 4317, the Safe to Work Act, by U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, and we urge you to adopt the COVID-19 civil liability protections included in this important legislation. As we wrote in our previous letter dated May 11, 2020, we believe this framework for federal pandemic liability protections will benefit all of our states and citizens as we continue working to slow the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the detrimental impact it has had on our state economies. 

Attorneys General have a responsibility to protect the interests of the residents of our states. Notably, it is the role of the Attorney General to help maintain a stable legal and regulatory environment. We have seen the tragedies and widespread loss of life that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in our states. We have also observed firsthand the livelihoods that have been lost due to joblessness, business closures, and the abandonment of traditional activities in daily lives and places of work.

As the economies in our states have started reopening, and as we continue to work to protect public health, safety, and the economic security of our residents, the need for a stable, predictable legal environment has never been greater. In order to avoid even greater damage to our economy and people’s livelihoods, it is important that we are able to continue the operation of our free enterprise system, safely and appropriately, and to protect schools, colleges, and nonprofit organizations.

 

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to create a surge in frivolous civil litigation targeting well-intentioned businesses, educational institutions and non-profit organizations that have implemented and utilized applicable pandemic mitigation measures. In fact, lawsuits are already being filed. We know that in order for our economy to fully recover, customers and employees have to have the confidence to return to the marketplace, students need to be able to safely return to school, and at the same time, entities of all types that follow applicable guidelines need to be protected from devastating civil liability litigation concerning baseless COVID-related claims.  Therefore, we are encouraged by this common-sense framework to provide federal liability protections for much-needed goods and services while still ensuring victims are able to seek legal redress and compensation where appropriate.

 

As you are probably aware, states across the country have taken steps to address the need for timely, targeted and temporary civil liability protections in light of the pandemic, but the need for a uniform national baseline of liability protection still exists. As such, we are very encouraged by the introduction and consideration of this important framework for federal pandemic liability protections while still preserving states’ autonomy to tailor protections based on each one’s unique circumstances.

 If adopted, these important protections will lead to meaningful results for our states, and we look forward to supporting the implementation of this type of legislation in any way we can.

 

 Joining South Dakota, the following state attorneys general also signed on to the letter: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Read the full letter here.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal officer for the State of South Dakota and provides legal advice to agencies, boards, and commissions of the State as well as representing the State in state and federal court.  The Office of Attorney General also handles prosecutions, felony criminal appeals, civil matters, consumer protection issues, and issues formal opinions interpreting statutes for agencies of the state.  Visit www.atg.sd.gov to learn more.

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CONTACT: Tim Bormann, Chief of Staff, (605) 773-3215