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Senate passes COVID liability bill

The state Senate has passed a bill designed to protect businesses and health care facilities from potential lawsuits over customers’ or employees’ exposure to the coronavirus.

The House passed it earlier. The Senate added some amendments to it.

"This is not a 'get out of jail free' card," said Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee chairman Jerry Klein (R-Fessenden). "If there were malicious acts, or disregards for public safety, this legislation holds those poor decisions and bad intentions accountable."

Klein said those cases could still pursue legal action.

"What we hope 1165 will do is provide a 'safe harbor' and protection for our businesses to continue to operate, to serve their customers, employ their workforce and continue to contribute to our economy," Klein said.

Sen. Erin Oban (D-Bismarck)  said she knows most businesses tried to do the right thing during the height of the pandemic.

"But we saw that there were folks who intentionally did not do the right thing," Oban said.

Oban said some minimized what COVID-19 was, as well as its impacts to public health.

"It's really unfortunate that the vast majority of really good employers and really good workers have to take the brunt for those who did not do the right thing, and will not be held responsible because of it," Oban said.

The measure passed 41 to 6. It goes back to the House, to see if there’s agreement on the amendments.

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