Piatt County State's Attorney Dana Rhoades issued the following statement today (May 15) regarding local churches and businesses that choose to reopen:

In response to the growing concerns of criminal liability for the reopening of local businesses and churches, I am notifying Piatt County citizens that it is not my intention as the Piatt County State’s Attorney to file criminal charges against such businesses or churches that reopen within Piatt County, when sufficient social distancing protocols are in place, including face covering, disinfecting, and other safety protocols as set forth by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The decision to reopen a business is not without potential significant risk 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 business owners should consider in making a decision to reopen include 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 Executive Orders, CDC Guidelines, or IDPH Guidelines. Likewise, injuries to employees normally covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act might be excluded from the Workers’ Compensation Exclusive Remedy Rule. House Bill 5769 proposes that employers who have been deemed essential businesses would have a statutory duty to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees or could face litigation that would result in a treble (3X) damages award in favor of the injured party, resulting from any violation. This may also result in the award of punitive damages assessed against the business owner or employer.

This is not an inclusive list of all potential concerns, issues, and risks that a business or church should consider when making a decision to reopen prior to the modification of the existing Governor’s Executive Orders.

Any business or church that does reopen must also be aware of the 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 any 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 county citizens are not put at great risk. For this same reason, the Piatt County State’s Attorney’s Office will exercise its discretion to enforce reckless conduct violations and seek cease and desist orders when appropriate.

For any person, business, or church seeking further information on safety protocol implementation, please contact the De-Witt Piatt Bi-County Health Department.”

– Dana Rhoades, Piatt County State’s Attorney