On Thursday, February 25, Governor Tony Evers signed 2021 Act 4, legislation including both COVID liability protections and reforms to the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) system. The bill cleared the Legislature with widespread support, passing the Senate by 27-3 on February 18 and the Assembly by 89-0 on February 23. Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), and Representative Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), in particular, championed the liability protections in the Legislature.
The law provides a civil liability exemption from COVID exposure claims for Wisconsin employers, governments, schools, and other entities as well as their employees, agents, and contractors. Now, entities cannot be held liable for ordinary negligence claims associated with a COVID infection; this civil immunity does not apply if an act or omission involves reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct. The immunity applies retroactively to claims accruing on or after March 1, 2020, except for actions filed before the bill took effect. A comprehensive COVID-19 response bill vetoed by Gov. Evers in early February included the same liability language.