Bramnick: N.J. needs to protect business owners against COVID-19 lawsuits

File photo Senate Minority Leader Jon Bramnick.

When he’s not working as the Assembly minority leader, Jon Bramnick is a personal injury lawyer. And he is concerned about a flood of lawsuits that could come from COVID-19.

Bramnick (R-Westfield), who was joined by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) on a webinar co-sponsored by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said the state needs to protect business owners from COVID-19 lawsuits.

The biggest reason: There is so much about COVID-19 that is still unknown.

“I run a law office with 50 people,” he said. “I can tell you that no one knows how to handle this. So, therefore, we should definitely have legislation that limits cases.

Bramnick said he foresees suits that are based on too many things that cannot be determined — such as exactly where someone got the virus.

And more, what a business is supposed to do to protect customers who come in.

“It’s almost impossible to figure out what a business is supposed to do,” he said — rattling off possible precautions such as Plexiglas barriers and temperature checks.

Even four months into the pandemic, Bramnick said there are no certain standards.

“We don’t even understand this virus,” he said. “I’m not sure how we would be able to tell a businessperson how to protect their environment. … (If) we knew what businesses should do, I might change my mind. But, at this stage, it is so nebulous that nobody knows what to do. And the experts change their opinions all the time.

“So, I’m good with that kind of that limitation, even as a trial lawyer.”

Kean spoke of how the Legislature passed laws protecting doctors, nurses and other health care workers against malpractice cases during the crisis — a provision that allows people to work outside of their departments.

He feels a similar safe-harbor provision is in order for businesses — so businesses can open and feel protected.

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