Indiana Senate and House bills to protect profits, not workers

by Andrew Brake

In Indiana, COVID-19 has infected more than 630,000, killed 10,000, and continues to infect almost 2,000 Hoosiers every day. In comparison, a CNN report shows how Vietnam with a population of 96 million has less COVID deaths than Marion County because they acted early and decisively to control the spread of the virus. Now that capitalists and their politicians have allowed COVID-19 to flourish in order to maintain record breaking profits, lawmakers in Indiana are making it their top priority to make it harder for workers and community members to sue for damages if they get COVID-19 at a business or service provider.

Indiana Senate Bill 1, written by Mark Messemer, Eric Koch, and Liz Brown and approved by the Senate Thursday with a 40-8 vote, grants businesses civil immunity from workers, families, community members, and patients filing lawsuits alleging they were exposed to or contracted COVID-19 at a business or long-term care service provider. This effectively removes liability from businesses for negligence while they remain open during a pandemic for profit or actively neglect and abuse their patients.

Similarly House Bill 1002, written by Rep. Jerry Torr of Carmel grants health care service providers immunity from civil lawsuits while there is a history of negligence, abuse, and inaccurate mortality and COVID-19 reports at long-term health care providers in Indiana. For example, even before the pandemic, long-term care facilities and nursing homes in Indiana and Illinois are described as being “bottom of the barrel” in delivering care. This is no surprise as nursing home residents in Indiana account for 47% of COVID-19 deaths, according to a WRTV report.

In addition, both bills assert that cases of “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct” are exempt from immunity as long it can be proven with “clear and convincing” evidence in accordance with the Medical Malpractice Act. However, the bills would grant civil immunity as an additional layer on a system that continues to divert or drop claims of abuse and neglect of workers, making businesses further immune to civil tort. If any claim of abuse or neglect “sounds of ordinary neglect,” the claim could potentially be pursued as a lesser form of neglect and abuse or be dropped entirely if HB 1002 and SB 1 become law.

Both bills are another clear representation of our capitalist government’s political will during a pandemic: that it does not work for the people. Instead, the ruling class works to protect capitalist business from the people fighting back against intolerable conditions and abuse. Workers across the nation are fighting by and demanding protection—PPE, vaccines to teachers and essential workers, and raising the minimum wage. Join the fight, Hoosiers!