Businesses face threat of liability, 63 COVID-19 lawsuits filed in Texas

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As more Austin businesses get the green light to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many worry about what, if any, liability they could face for resuming operations.

According to a COVID-19 lawsuit tracker developed by the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, 895 COVID-19-related complaints have been filed in the United States, including 63 in Texas.

Salons and barbershops in Texas can reopen Friday as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen the state’s economy. Retail stores, restaurants, and movie theaters were able to open last week with limited capacity.

David Coale, an appellate attorney with Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann, said businesses that follow public health guidelines carefully should be clear of liability but there is a risk to reopening.

Coale compared COVID-19 litigation to lawsuits that have come from the opioid epidemic and asbestos.

“This is new but it’s not uncharted anymore, we’ve got a lot of guidance out there,” Coale said. “The system has evolved to allow a lot of different people to come together in one suit and relieve them from some of the traditional requirements.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is among a large group of Republicans in Congress pushing for liability protections for businesses that reopen, through 64% of Americans do not support liability protections for businesses, according to a poll by Hart Research.

KXAN Politics Reporter John Engel is talking to Austin business owners about the risks they face by reopening and whether they believe liability protections are necessary. Watch the full story tonight at 9 p.m.

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