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COVID-19 Liability Bill Heads To Governor’s Desk

Sign on a business door that says 'Attention: for the safety of our patrons and employees, masks are required for entry. Thank you for helpping slow the spread of COVID-19.'

A bill which would protect businesses from being held liable for COVID-19 spread has been endorsed by both legislative chambers and is now heading to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk for consideration.

During last week's State of the State addressGianforte said he would sign the bill into law. Its passage is one of the conditions he set for lifting the statewide mask mandate. 

“I look forward to getting SB-65 to my desk so we can take that critical step to getting Montana safely open for business," Gianforte said.

The bill would add to the burden of proof for claimants who contract COVID-19 and want to sue a business, church, nonprofit or other organization for negligence in preventing the spread of the virus. Republicans say the goal is to protect businesses from "frivolous lawsuits."

The bill was amended to remove a provision that would have allowed the law to be applied retroactively and to add assisted living facilities to the list of protected businesses. 

Gianforte has also said that the state’s most vulnerable residents need to be mostly vaccinated before he lifts the statewide mask mandate. The governor's office did not answer questions seeking clarity on when the vaccine threshold would be considered met.

Shaylee is Montana Public Radio's Capitol reporter. She previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and covered the 2019 legislative session for the University of Montana's Legislative News Service.
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