Georgia Legislature Passes COVID-19 Liability Shield

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On June 26, 2020, as the Georgia General Assembly was about to adjourn, it passed the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act. The Act protects businesses, healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, and other entities and individuals from liability for damages in an action involving a COVID-19 liability claim, unless the claimant proves the actions of the business, healthcare facility, healthcare provider, entity, or individual showed gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm. The bill now is headed to Governor Brian Kemp for approval, which he is expected to sign. This protection was a legislative priority of the Georgia business community.

Georgia joins at least nine other states that have enacted legislation or issued executive orders to shield businesses from liability: Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. Business groups are asking Congress to pass similar legislation. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell has said a civil liability shield is a top priority in another COVID-19 relief bill. Around the country numerous claims are being asserted against businesses, including claims that businesses that fail to protect their workers adequately are a public nuisance.

This Georgia legislation would protect businesses from COVID-19 related lawsuits brought by customers, the public and employees. It would not affect employees’ right to bring workers’ compensation claims. It also would not affect their right to file complaints about workplace safety with OSHA.

The legislation provides the following protections for entities and individuals:

Except for gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm, in an action involving a COVID-19 liability claim against an individual or entity for transmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure of COVID-19 to a claimant on the premises of such individual or entity, there shall be a rebuttable presumption of assumption of risk by the claimant when:

  1. Any receipt or proof of purchase for entry, including but not limited to an electronic or paper ticket or wristband issued to a claimant by the individual or entity for entry or attendance, includes a statement in an at least ten-point Arial font placed apart from any other text, stating the following warning:

    Any person entering the premises waives all civil liability against this premises owner and operator for any injuries caused by the inherent risk associated with contracting COVID-19 at public gatherings, except for gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm, by the individual or entity of the premises, or
     

  2. An individual or entity of the premises has posted at a point of entry, if present, to the premises, a sign in at least one-inch Arial font placed apart from any other text, a written warning stating the following:

Warning

Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death for an individual entering these premises, if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.

The legislation further provides the following protections for healthcare facilities and providers:

Except for gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm, in an action involving a COVID-19 liability claim for transmission infection, exposure, or potential exposure of COVID-19 to a claimant at any healthcare facility or on the premises of any healthcare provider, resulting in injury to or death of a claimant there shall be a rebuttable presumption of assumption of the risk by the claimant when a healthcare facility or healthcare provider has posted at a point of entry, if present, a sign in at least a sign in at least one-inch Arial font placed apart from any other text, a written warning stating the following:

Warning

Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death for an individual entering these premises, if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.

The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act shall become effective upon its approval by Governor Kemp or upon its becoming law without such approval or on August 7, 2020, whichever occurs first. The law shall apply to causes of action accruing until July 14, 2021.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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