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The COVID-19 pandemic already has taken too many lives, and we know there will be more. It has impacted the way we live, and we can’t yet fully comprehend how the future will look. Yet it has also revealed how caring and supportive people can be when faced with a horrible and impossible situation. Unfortunately, some people want to prioritize dollars over lives in horrible times.


Blatant examples of this here in Kansas are various legislative proposals gifting immunity to businesses and professions from any COVID-related negligence resulting in Kansans sickened or killed by the virus. Other glaring examples are efforts to quickly rush through bad legislation in an abbreviated session without benefit of full public scrutiny and debate, while at the same time denying efforts to help Kansas workers.


This callous approach ignores the safety of the hundreds of thousands of Kansans who go to work every day. Especially for those front-line workers in health care, meatpacking, other food providers, manufacturing and all the essential businesses on which we depend.


Some workers, especially essential workers, may be forced to stay on a job where they are not provided proper protection from the virus. Currently, those essential Kansas workers might be unable to obtain coverage for treatment of COVID-19 through worker’s compensation even if they contracted the virus on the job.


Senior citizens and people with disabilities are far more likely to be negatively impacted by this legislation. They disproportionately require health care services and hospitalizations because of their medical conditions. Current proposals eliminate their ability to ensure accountability and obtain justice through the normal legal system.


In addition, this overreaching immunity will further threaten nursing home residents by allowing facilities to inadequately control infection. We especially cannot give immunity to providers who performed poorly before this emergency.


Finally, these proposals ignore the rights of all Kansans who deserve to feel safe in stores, restaurants or offices.


Providing immunity from liability is never a good idea. But now it is a dangerous idea. Those who are responsible for others must act responsibly. Our judicial system works. It is fair and has all necessary checks in place to throw out meritless legal cases. We need to trust Kansas courts to do their jobs.


This is not a partisan issue. In fact, recent national research shows bipartisan opposition to guaranteed immunity from COVID-19 liability to companies. Seventy-two % of Democrats, 56 % of Republicans and 64 % of independents oppose immunity to companies.


It is wrong to use this pandemic as an attempt to strip the constitutional protections of our citizens and grant immunity from liability to businesses and professions. And we do have a question to ask. Because some of the same people supporting blanket immunity also say it’s time to quickly open the state and get back to normal, why do we need to grant anyone immunity from being responsible?


We urge the governor and the Legislature to carefully review these proposals and reject them. It is unrealistic to think our Legislature can thoughtfully consider and debate these proposals and allow adequate time for public comment. We urge our elected officials to reject these attempts to prevent our citizens from living and working in a safe, secure and healthy Kansas.


David Morantz is president of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association.