On February 25, 2021, Governor Tony Evers signed 2021 Wisconsin Act 4 (“Act”). The Act became effective on February 26, 2021. The Act, in part, created broad immunity to civil liability related to exposure of COVID-19 for companies under Wisconsin Statute section 895.476 (“Statute”). The full Act is available here.
Worker’s compensation is still the exclusive remedy for employee claims against employers. The Statute provides civil immunity to companies for claims from individuals such as customers, vendors, and employee family members, related to death, injury or damages arising out of COVID-19 exposure. It protects schools and institutions of higher education from claims by students, retail businesses from customer claims, and long-term health facilities from patient claims, to list a few examples.
The immunity is retroactive and will protect businesses from liability related to COVID-19 exposure beginning March 1, 2020.
The Statute provides greater protections for businesses in Wisconsin. However, immunity will not apply if the entity engaged in “reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.” Companies should continue to operate with appropriate and recommended precautions, if not, they may face COVID-19 liability if a court determines they acted with reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct. Further, Companies should continue to act in accordance with recommended OSHA practices, because this Statue will not protect them from OSHA citations.