Governor Tony Evers signed legislation into law earlier this morning that provides civil liability protection against opportunistic COVID-19 lawsuits. Under the new law, entities such as physician offices will be immune from civil liability for harm related to someone’s exposure to SARS-CoV-2, unless the entity engaged in reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.
The bill was January 2021 Special Session Senate Bill 1, which the State Senate approved Feb. 18 on a bipartisan 27-3 vote and was unanimously approved in the State Assembly on Tuesday. It is now 2021 Wisconsin Act 4. The lawsuit protection begins for any incidents from March 1, 2020 or later, but does not affect any official claims that have already been filed.
“Protecting physicians and their clinics from unscrupulous lawyers looking for an easy payday has been one of the Society’s priorities this winter,” Wisconsin Medical Society (Society) CEO Bud Chumbley, MD, MBA said. “While it’s extremely difficult to determine where someone was exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, that doesn’t stop some people from trying to make a quick buck at a physician’s expense by claiming their client caught the virus at a medical facility.
“That’s not acceptable, and the Society wasn’t going to let that happen,” Dr. Chumbley said.
The Wisconsin Medical Society is a founding member of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council (WCJC) – a tort reform watchdog entity that includes a variety of advocacy groups like the Society. The WCJC was the driving force ensuring these protections were enacted.
Contact Society Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information.