The National Automobile Dealers Association and the American International Automobile Dealers Association have joined a growing list of trade associations and other groups calling for Congress to pass temporary and targeted liability relief legislation related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter sent Wednesday, more than 200 groups urged members of Congress to "enact temporary liability protections for businesses, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions that work to follow applicable public health guidelines against COVID-19 exposure claims."
The groups also are asking members to protect health care workers and facilities providing critical care and services; manufacturers, donors, distributors and users of personal protective equipment and other supplies; and public companies "targeted by unfair and opportunistic" securities related to the coronavirus.
"The need for liability protections and relief is clear," the groups said in the letter. "Several governors and state legislatures have already implemented COVID-19-related liability protections for key sectors in their states, but a uniform national response is necessary."
Earlier this month, major industry groups — including the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Manufacturers — penned a letter to Congress asking them to provide "limited and rational safe harbors" for businesses to protect them from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The alliance and MEMA also have signed today's letter.
The auto sector has experienced a few hiccups as it gradually restarts North American vehicle production. The recent effort to bring employees back into factories has included products critical to help those on the front lines and to slow the spread of the virus. But it also comes with the risk of those workers potentially spreading or becoming infected with COVID-19.
Auto dealers, too, are navigating new challenges and liability concerns related to the coronavirus as they reopen their doors to customers.
"The prospect of such litigation and associated exorbitant legal costs are a deterrent to reopening," the groups said in the most recent letter. "Further, this litigation could devastate those entities that are just beginning to reopen their doors or have kept them open through the crisis."
Senate Republicans — led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — have been insistent that the next coronavirus bill needs to include liability protection for businesses and certain professionals. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., previously has said Democrats "would not be inclined" to support any immunity from liability.
"As international nameplate dealers participate in phased reopenings around the country, it is crucial that they are provided the legal protections necessary to confidently welcome employees and customers into their stores," the AIADA said in a statement. "In uncertain economic conditions, targeted liability protection from Congress will provide assurance to small business owners acting in good faith that they will not be attacked with unscrupulous COVID-19-related lawsuits."