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April 24, 2020, 2:15 p.m. EDT

Trump adviser Kudlow talks up limiting coronavirus liability for businesses: ‘I don’t think there should be a lawsuit’

Trial lawyers group says workers deserve the right to take action if their safety is compromised

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By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch


Bloomberg News
Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, is shown speaking to reporters outside the White House last year.

‘If they’re practicing the rules and regs and guides that they should be, and regrettably someone — a customer or an employee — regrettably, gets the infection or is infected by the virus, I don’t think there should be a lawsuit.’

Larry Kudlow, top White House economist

The line above came on Friday from top White House economist Larry Kudlow, as he talked with reporters about the Trump administration’s interest in limiting the liability of businesses in instances when a worker or customer gets the coronavirus causing the disease COVID-19.

Kudlow said it’s a different situation “if a restaurant is found guilty of gross negligence,” and he acknowledged that some of the authority in this area is with U.S. states.

“Some of it can be done through executive order or regulatory changes, and some of it might require legislation. We’re looking at it right now. We’re looking at all the options. It’s just a subject that is worth talking about,” he said. Kudlow also stressed that “you have to give confidence to the small-business person.”

A waiver that would limit liability has been among the items that the White House wants in Washington’s next big response to the coronavirus crisis. President Donald Trump addressed the issue on Monday at the daily coronavirus briefing.

“I’ll give you a legal answer to that when we look it up, but we have tried to take liability away from these companies. We just don’t want that, because we want the companies to open and to open strong,” Trump said on Monday.

Related: Next coronavirus aid package may not pass Congress until June as battle lines harden

The American Association for Justice, a lobbying group that previously was called the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, has indicated that it’s concerned and tracking the issue. “Workers deserve the right to take action if their safety is compromised,” the group said this week in a tweet .

In one example of the type of lawsuit that businesses could face, Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.32%  has been hit with a wrongful-death suit filed by the estate of a worker who died of the coronavirus.

/zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 136.69
+0.43 +0.32%
Volume: 12.42M
Sept. 17, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
21.79
Dividend Yield
1.58%
Market Cap
$386.13 billion
Rev. per Employee
$223,654
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Victor Reklaitis is MarketWatch's Money & Politics reporter and is based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @VicRek.

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