Former U.S. Attorney for Montana and current Representative Bill Mercer (R-Billings) was on the KGVO Montana Morning news show on Tuesday to talk about the passage of his HB 435 which would protect the public sector from COVID 19 lawsuits .

“The legislature has the authority under the Montana Constitution if two thirds of both houses pass the bill, immunized state and local governments and legislature has the ability to essentially preclude those governments from being susceptible to liability damages in litigation,” said Mercer. “This bill sort of picks up where Senate Bill 65 left off, and it is designed to essentially protect state and local government from lawsuits that allege the injuries have resulted from failures to do certain things in response to COVID.”

Mercer said the bill protects the public sector from lawsuits unless gross negligence is proved.

“This is designed to say that unless the plaintiff meets the burden of proof for either of gross negligence, recklessness or intentional tort, that the state or local government would not be vulnerable to paying out damages in those sorts of cases,” he said.

Mercer said the bill is part two of a one-two punch to protect both business and government from frivolous lawsuits requested by Governor Gianforte to help the state move closer to reopening.

“My background has led me to understand where the statutes can be useful,” he said. “I think this is a really good example because we really all are hoping that we can turn the corner in terms of getting back up to a normal functioning society, and this bill is designed to be a piece of that,” he said.

Senate Bill 65 was signed by Governor Greg Gianforte in a public ceremony in February.


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