Governor signs bill for Indiana COVID-19 lawsuit shield

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana businesses and others now have broad protections from lawsuits by people blaming them for contracting COVID-19 under a new state law.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday signed the bill that he and GOP lawmakers had made a top priority for this year’s legislative session even as supporters don’t point to any such lawsuits in the state.

The law is retroactive to March 1, 2020 — just before the first coronavirus infection was confirmed in Indiana — and only allows lawsuits against businesses when “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.”

Supporters call the protections a key step toward economic recovery from the pandemic, which shut down some businesses for months and the state health department says has killed more than 12,000 people in Indiana.

Some Democrats questioned whether the bill’s protections are too broad and worried that they could block lawsuits against nursing homes over illnesses and deaths among residents.

Holcomb said it was important to give businesses protections against frivolous lawsuits.

“Most Hoosier businesses and other organizations are making good faith attempts to protect their customers and employees, because it is the right thing to do and it makes for better business in the long run,” Holcomb said in a statement.