Iowa House pushes coronavirus lawsuit protection bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Republican lawmakers Wednesday proposed a bill that would offer broad protection from coronavirus lawsuits for doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, meatpacking plants, restaurants and other businesses.

The measure, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, was tacked onto a medical malpractice bill that previously had passed the Senate. After swift passage in a House subcommittee and committee Wednesday, it’s eligible for House floor debate.

If approved in the House, the Senate only needs to agree with the new language and it would go to the governor for her consideration.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to protect Iowans,” Republican Rep. Gary Carlson, a former corporate executive, said in passing the bill through the House Commerce Committee.

Democratic Rep. Brian Meyer, a lawyer, unsuccessfully attempted to amend the measure to require business owners to prove they followed government guidelines and federal and state laws to get protection from lawsuits.

“My amendment protects the people of Iowa. The Republican amendment protects corporations and people that were bad actors. That’s the simple fact,” he said.

Similar efforts to curb what supporters consider frivolous lawsuits are underway in Congress and several other states.

The Iowa State Bar Association and the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers oppose the measure while meatpacking companies and numerous business and medical groups support it.