Legislation intended to address the atrocities and aftermath of the Larry Nassar situation was passed by the Senate earlier this month and is now pending in the House Law and Justice Committee. While we agree that all victims must be protected and the Legislature should research every available option to improve public policy in this area, we are concerned that one of the bills in the package might go too far and open businesses (not just perpetrators) to retroactive lawsuits and civil damages.
As passed by the Senate, SB 872 would allow alleged victims - both past and present - to file civil lawsuits against individuals, businesses and other entities based on allegations dating back 20 year or more, regardless of whether the incident was previously reported or the defendant was arrested, charged, prosecuted or convicted and regardless of whether the employer knew about the incident or reported it to law enforcement. Legal memos prepared by well-respected employment law attorneys at the offices of Dykema and Miller Canfield provide detailed information on the legislation.
The Michigan Chamber continues to raise concerns with the legislation, specifically the fact that it would subject Michigan businesses and other entities not related to the Nassar situation to an indeterminate number of lawsuits and civil damages. The wide-ranging consequences for businesses throughout Michigan include:
- Lawsuits will be impossible to defend due to lack of personnel records and other pertinent information.
- Rising litigation costs.
- Puts businesses in a position of having to defend civil claims more than 20 years old.
- Higher insurance rates for organizations seeking to protect employees, members and volunteers.
- Reduced credit ratings.
- Reductions in the numbers of people willing to volunteer or serve on boards of directors.
- Court backlogs.
We recognize this is a highly sensitive debate and are in no way trying to diminish the atrocities of the Larry Nassar situation or other sexual abuse scandals or delay or deny justice to the victims. Rather, we are working to make sure the legislation is an appropriate response to these situations and is the right public policy for Michigan moving forward.
Please take a few minutes to review the analyses and letters linked to this article. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more information, or would like for your organization to become engaged, please contact Wendy Block at firstname.lastname@example.org.