Should you sign away your right to sue if you catch COVID-19?

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 19:40:36-04

MILWAUKEE — With COVID-19 now in the picture, before going to the gym, getting a hair cut or a massage, some customers have to sign on the dotted line, saying they won't sue the business if they get sick.

Milwaukee attorney, Emil Ovbiagele says consumers should ask questions if they don't feel comfortable with the waiver, but he signs them. He says if a COVID-19 form you're reading seems broad, it's likely not legally binding.

"How does a COVID-19 waiver hold up in Wisconsin court?" Consumer Investigator, Kristin Byrne asked.

"In Wisconsin, it's probably not going to hold up particularly well," said Ovbiagele.

"That doesn't mean that there aren't situations where a waiver could be enforceable," he continued.

"Wisconsin happens to be one of those states that has a strong public policy or has developed a strong public policy against releases especially in the business to consumer setting," he explained.

"Most releases no matter how well-drafted they are will not absolve one from intentional acts or gross negligence," he clarified.

TMJ4 News reached out to several businesses with COVID-19 waivers asking for an interview. They all declined. We came across waivers on their websites, asking customers in some form or another to waive their rights to make a claim they contracted COVID-19 from the business.

On a national scale, companies worry about the legal risks COVID-19 creates.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with more than two-hundred other organizations are lobbying for immunity legislation from the federal government. In a letter sent to Congress late last month, they said the economic threat of COVID-19 lawsuits could "...devastate those entities that are just beginning to reopen their doors..."

Ovbiagele is advising his business clients to follow the CDC guidelines and take preventative measures like doing health checks and sanitizing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Ovbiagele said.

Business owners can get guidance from the below government websites as they reopen their workplaces:

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