INDIANAPOLIS—On Thursday, Senate Bill (SB) 1 passed out of the Senate with a vote of 40-8. If signed into law, the bill would grant COVID-19 civil immunity to corporations and prohibit class action lawsuits from being taken against them. Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary), who voted against SB 1, released the following statement explaining his opposition to the bill:

“I commend Senator Messmer for the hard work he’s put into this proposal,” Sen. Melton said. “Our small businesses have been greatly affected by this pandemic, and have worked hard to stay open and keep Hoosiers employed. While I agree that our local businesses do deserve some protection from fraudulent lawsuits, this bill unfortunately falls short when it comes to ensuring the rights of vulnerable populations. One critical component not included in this bill is necessary protections for senior Hoosiers in long-term care residential facilities. While many facilities were dedicated to caring for our loved ones, it’s imperative that in instances of neglect families have a path for legal action. The civil immunity language in this proposal is also cause for concern. Because it’s so broad, it poses the risk of prohibiting individuals with valid lawsuits from bringing them up against businesses that intentionally did not follow proper COVID-19 guidelines.

“When considering legislation like this, we have to make sure that we do not unintentionally cause harm in our efforts to help. SB 1 has too much potential to deny legal rights to Hoosiers who endured harm from COVID-19 due to legitimate neglect by a business or facility. However, I appreciate Senator Messmer’s commitment to improving this legislation as we continue on through session, and I look forward to working with him to strengthen this bill and address its shortcomings so we can protect both our businesses and our communities.”