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State’s Attorney response to COVID restrictions

In response to the growing concerns of criminal liability for the reopening local businesses and churches, I am notifying Douglas County residents that it is not my intention as the Douglas County State’s Attorney to file charges against such businesses or churches that reopen within our county when sufficient social distancing protocols are in place.

The decision to reopen a business or church is not without potential, significant risks in terms of civil liability and licensure revocation. For these reasons, I strongly encourage any business or church contemplating reopening to seek legal counsel.

Other potential risks for business owners to consider in making a reopening decision is that COVID-19 liability claims might be denied coverage under insurance policy exclusions if a business is determined to have been operating in violation of the Governor’s Orders, or CDC Guidelines, or IDPH Guidelines. Likewise, injuries to employees normally covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act might be excluded from the Worker’s Compensation Exclusive Remedy Rule. HB5769 proposes that employers who have been deemed essential businesses would have a statutory duty to appropriate PPE’s or face litigation that would require a court to award (“shall” award) the injured person or employee three times (3x) the amount of actual damages resulting from the violation, and may also result in an award punitive damages being assessed against a business or employer.

This is not an inclusive list of all of the concerns, issues and risks a business or church should consider when making a reopening decision.

Any business or church that reopens must also be aware of its’ duty to implement and enforce social distancing, face covering, disinfecting, and other safety protocols set forth by the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

Again, a failure by a business or church to enforce these safety protocols may result in liability, licensure revocation and other consequences.

Vigilance by all citizens is necessary to ensure that our community is not put at great risk. For this same reason, the Douglas County State’s Attorney’s Office will enforce reckless conduct violations and seek cease and desist orders, if circumstances indicate such actions are appropriate.

For any person, business or church seeking further information on safety protocol implementation, please contact the Douglas County Health Department.

Kate Watson, Douglas County State’s Attorney

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