FRANKFORT, Ky. — One of the top priorities for Kentucky Republicans this year is to pass a bill protecting businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

What You Need To Know

  • Senate Bill 5 cleared the KY Senate Monday night

  • The bill would protect businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19

  • Senate President Robert Stivers sponsors the bill

  • The House passed a similar bill in January

Senate Bill 5, which cleared the Senate late Monday night, would provide some protections, but several lawmakers questioned if the bill is needed.

Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) says Kentucky faces some economic hurdles as it comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“So we must take every step possible to help our businesses get started,” Stivers said. “We cannot afford to put another straw on that camel’s back.”

Stivers sponsors Senate Bill 5, which would limit lawsuits against essential service providers — like grocery stores, government offices, schools, and health care providers — as long as they do their best to follow health guidelines.

Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) says nobody should be punished for trying their best.  

“We talked about two weeks to flatten the curve, and here we sit,” McDaniel said. “We all did our best without the benefit of a good road map, and now we just need a little bit of protection for that which we did.”

Senate Bill 5 passed 24 to 11 Monday night, with every Democrat voting against it.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) says there haven’t been any lawsuits blaming businesses for the transmission of COVID-19.

“But we’ve written a bill that’s so broad, there’s a chance if you slip and fall in a grocery store, even a year after the pandemic’s over, you’re not going to be able to do anything about it,” McGarvey said.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler (R-Pikeville) says it creates an unfair standard of negligence; one that only helps insurance companies.

“Senate Bill 5 devalues certain lives within the Commonwealth of Kentucky by creating a class of people who are protected, and sacrificing other people who don’t receive protections but yet may be injured by the actions of the protected class,” Wheeler said.

There could be some more conflict with this bill when it goes to the House, which passed its own bill to protect businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19 in January.