North Carolina Limits Liability for Businesses with a COVID-19 Safety Plan

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On July 2, 2020, North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper, signed House Bill 118 into law.  Session Law 2020-89 provides limited immunity to businesses, individuals (acting as a sole proprietorship), government agencies and subdivisions, and other protected entities.  For the purposes of this publication, the term “Covered Entity” means the entity seeking limited liability.  Here is what you need to know:

COVID-19 Safety Plans

The first step requires Covered Entities to be take some sort of protective action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its premises.  The legislation says that these plans must be for the purpose of reducing the risk of the transmission of COVID-19 to individuals present on the Covered Entity’s premises.  Though the legislation is not clear about what would qualify as a COVID-19 safety plan, things like mask policies, social distancing policies, hand sanitizer stations, and the like are great places to start. 

In order for the Covered Entity to receive liability protection, it also needs to provide “reasonable notice” of these safety plans to individuals present on the Covered Entity’s property.  Reasonable notice is satisfied by posting signage at each entrance and sending an email to employees. 

Type of Protection

The Covered Entity will not be liable for any act or omission alleged to have resulted in the contraction of COVID-19.   This liability shield, however, does not apply to Workers’ Compensation claims or claims based on gross negligence, willful or wanton conduct, or intentional wrongdoing.

Timing

This limited liability protection only shields Covered Entities from claims that arise within 180 days of the recision or expiration of Governor Cooper’s State of Emergency Executive Order No. 116.

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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