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Hartzler Introduces Nonprofit Liability Protection Legislation

May 22, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) will introduce today the Service Assurance Act to expand liability protections for nonprofit organizations as states begin to reopen their economies. Specifically, this bill provides churches, faith-based nonprofits and all 501(c)(3) organizations with increased liability protections for harms arising from exposure to or infection by the COVID-19 virus.

The Service Assurance Act adds a layer of legal protection for churches, faith-based organizations, and all nonprofits which, like many for-profit businesses across the country, may be in a phase of reopening. The bill provides core community partners with legal protections against threats of COVID-19 liability lawsuits,” Hartzler said.
 
In order to safely manage the reopening of these important non-profit organizations, the Service Assurance Act ensures these organizations are protected from frivolous lawsuits only if the claims are not caused by:

  • An act constituting willful or criminal misconduct,
  • Gross negligence by the organization,
  • Reckless misconduct.

 “Nonprofit organizations are such an important part of our community and many of our neighbors, particularly children and the elderly, depend on their services. I am deeply concerned that our local charities and ministries may see a heightened number of lawsuits from parties which may have received food, shelter, or attended a religious service and later contracted COVID-19. These institutions, which are often at the forefront of providing relief, medical care, and spiritual counseling during emergencies, may already be struggling financially and the mere threat of a lawsuit may cause many to shutter,” Hartzler continued.
 
“The bill raises the bar for legal challenges while encouraging nonprofit organizations to take necessary precautionary measures and make good faith efforts to comply with appropriate guidelines.
 
“Because of this importance, nonprofits should have the peace of mind knowing they are protected from frivolous lawsuits and they continue to do incredible work in our communities. Equally as important, those who attend a house of worship, patrons, and customers should know these vital organizations are taking every measure to ensure their safety. We must not let our response to the virus multiply its damage by crippling the organizations that serve the neediest among us,” Hartzler said.

A copy of the bill text can be found here.