By Bob Katzen

The Judiciary Committee also accepted only written testimony on two bills that grant indemnity from lawsuits to public and private colleges and secondary schools as a result of any act or omission by the institution when it develops, manufactures, tests or distributes personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to COVID-19, unless the act or omission constitutes willful, wanton or reckless conduct. Under current federal law, manufacturers and other businesses are given this liability protection but the federal law does not apply to colleges, universities or secondary schools.

Sen. Walter Timilty (D-Milton), the Senate sponsor, wrote that the state has been asking companies and institutions to repurpose their manufacturing processes to help with the emergency demand of PPE. But colleges are unable to help because they fear lawsuits and “this bill will remove that hurdle.”

“Given the extraordinary need for PPE here in the commonwealth, I believe this piece of legislation will greatly assist those that are battling this pandemic on the front lines,” said Timilty. “Additionally, it will allow our institutions of higher education to employ people in their facilities, creating further economic opportunities in Massachusetts.”

“[Colleges] have been called upon to donate, supply and manufacture personal protective equipment and other emergency aid following the outbreak of COVID-19,” said House sponsor Rep. Jeff Roy (D-Franklin) “They have also offered to house emergency aid workers and provide shelter for testing and potential patients suffering from the disease. Their charitable efforts are deserving of protection.”

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