To register for a spot at President Donald Trump’s first campaign rally since the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered much of the United States in March, prospective attendees must first agree not to sue either the Trump campaign or the venue if they contract coronavirus during the event — a requirement critics say is an attempt by the president’s team to evade responsibility for moving ahead with a hazardous indoor gathering.
“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to Covid-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” reads a paragraph at the bottom of the registration form for Trump’s planned rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Juneteenth. “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”
Oklahoma, which began reopening its economy last month, has recorded more than 7,600 coronavirus cases and at least 357 deaths. The president’s Tulsa rally is slated to take place inside the BOK Center, which boasts a seat capacity of nearly 19,200.
As the Associated Press reported, “arena marketing director Meghan Blood said Thursday that she didn’t know yet about any plans for social distancing or other coronavirus precautions for Trump’s rally, which would be one of the larger public gatherings in the U.S. at this stage of the outbreak.”
The Trump campaign said the president will also soon hold rallies in Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona — three states that are currently seeing a surge in new Covid-19 infections.
Catherine Sharkey, a professor at New York University School of Law, told CNN Thursday that liability waivers are likely to become commonplace in the U.S. as states continue the process reopening their economies.
“They only give limited protections, so they never would protect against, for example, gross negligence or recklessness,” said Sharkey. “One could argue that holding a large public gathering that will draw people together in a context in which they’re not able to do social distancing or follow the directive of the CDC, et cetera. One could argue that is grossly negligent.”
Unreal. As Trump resumes indoor rallies, his campaign has implemented a new policy that attendees CANNOT SUE if they contract coronavirus at an event.
Trump supporters, please think about what this means: the man does not care if you live or die.https://t.co/T64Niw5ULn
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) June 12, 2020
Robert Weissman, president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, warned in a statement late Thursday that indoor campaign rallies “are extremely likely to spread the coronavirus, particularly if Trump discourages attendees from wearing masks either explicitly or by example.”
“The Trump campaign may have shied away from such a move if it could be held accountable for the resulting illness and potential deaths that are likely to follow,” said Weissman. “Instead, it aims to escape liability and any measure of accountability by forcing attendees to waive their rights through contract terms that they are unlikely even to notice.”
“Immunity from lawsuits encourages irresponsible and reckless behavior, and undermines public health, as the Trump campaign is now shamefully making clear,” Weissman added. “Congress must learn from the bad Trump campaign example and protect the rights of workers, patients, and consumers. That means no immunity for businesses and entities that engage in unreasonable conduct that endangers people by exposing them to the coronavirus.”
Political scientist Miranda Yaver tweeted that the president knows “his campaign rallies have significant potential to be super-spreader events, especially as many states see increases in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.”
“He doesn’t care, so long as he’s not liable,” Yaver wrote. “Classic Trump.”