House Bill 6 – Immunity from civil liability

Parrish Miller 2020 Special Session Leave a Comment

Bill description: House Bill 6 would provide immunity from civil liabilities “for damages or an injury resulting from exposure of an individual to coronavirus.”

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NOTE: House Bill 6 says, “A person is immune from civil liability for damages or an injury resulting from exposure of an individual to coronavirus.”

It defines the word “person” as “any entity recognized in this state and shall include but not be limited to an individual, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, trust, association, city, county, school district, college, university or other institution of higher education, or other unit of local government. However, “person” shall not include any Idaho public health district; the federal government or any of its agencies; the state of Idaho or any of its agencies, except colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education; nor any foreign government or foreign jurisdiction.”

House Bill 6 exempts from immunity “acts or omissions” that “constitute an intentional tort or willful or reckless misconduct.”

House Bill 6 includes a sunset date of July 1, 2021.

Does it increase barriers to entry into the market? Examples include occupational licensure, the minimum wage, and restrictions on home businesses. Conversely, does it remove barriers to entry into the market?

House Bill 6 provides basic and necessary protection from frivolous lawsuits to individuals and businesses who are conducting themselves according to normal standards of behavior. It is not reasonable to expect property owners to prevent the transmission of a cold or flu, which are unfortunate yet unavoidable elements of life on earth. To hold businesses liable for such natural occurrences creates a significant barrier to activity in the market.

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Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency or accountability? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability?

By granting special immunity to cities, counties, school districts, other units of local government, colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning, House Bill 6 substantially lessens government accountability for the harm it may contribute to or cause. This is particularly relevant to those government entities such as schools, courts, and certain regulatory agencies where attendance may be compulsory.

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Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or nonrestorative penalties for non-violent crimes?

House Bill 6 exempts from immunity “acts or omissions” that “constitute an intentional tort or willful or reckless misconduct.”

“Willful or reckless misconduct” is defined in Section 6-1601, Idaho Code, as “conduct in which a person makes a conscious choice as to the person’s course of conduct under circumstances in which the person knows or should know that such conduct both creates an unreasonable risk of harm to another and involves a high probability that such harm will actually result.”

An “intentional tort” is not defined either in this bill or in Idaho statute, but is defined by Cornell Law School as “a type of tort that can only result from an intentional act of the defendant.  Depending on the exact tort alleged, either general or specific intent will need to be proven. Common intentional torts are battery, assault, false imprisonment, trespass to land, trespass to chattels, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Unlike some of the other RS’s on this topic, House Bill 6 does not condition immunity on a “good faith” effort to comply with myriad (and often contradictory) rules and mandates issued by various overlapping jurisdictions.

There is still the possibility, however, that a liberal interpretation of “willful or reckless misconduct” or of “intentional tort” might unfairly penalize businesses that choose to honor the personal health decisions of their customers, but this risk is reduced relative to the broader “good faith” standard.

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