What is the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act?
There are more that 189,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 4,000 deaths in Georgia. With all of these cases, there are surely incidents of missed diagnoses by physicians, employees getting infected by co-workers, and families contracting the virus at church.
So, who is at fault when this happens, and what can I do about it?
The answer is “not much” because of a new law passed by Georgia General Assembly that limits liability for certain COVID-19 related tort claims.
How has Georgia Addressed the Legal Risks and Liabilities for Businesses?
In late June, the Georgia General Assembly passed the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act. Governor Brian Kemp signed the legislation into law on August 6th.
The Act (to be codified at O.C.G.A. § 51-16-1 et seq.) focuses on the legal risks and liabilities of operating a business during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new law also covers the risks of healthcare facilities and workers during the coronavirus pandemic in the state.
You may see a WARNING sign posted on the door of your doctor’s office, a hospital, businesses, your church, or your child’s schools. If this sign is printed in at least one-inch Arial font and placed apart from any other text when you enter the premises, you’re waiving “all civil liability against this premises owner and operator for any injuries caused by the inherent risk associated with contracting COVID-19…” That means that you’re going in knowing you might get COVID-19.
In addition, a receipt or proof of purchase for entry, such as an electronic or paper ticket or wristband, issued to a person for entry or attendance at an event must include a statement in at least 10-point Arial font placed apart from any other text with that warning. Think Taylor Swift concert or monster truck rally at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The law says that there’s a rebuttable presumption that an injured individual assumed the risk of contracting the disease by entering the premises that posts the warning sign or purchased a ticket with the warning printed on it. Again, you’re going in knowing you might get COVID-19. However, failure to post the warnings is inadmissible in a COVID-19 liability claim.
Are There Any Exceptions to the New Law?
If a store owner, synagogue, or middle school posts the sign according to specifications set out in the Act, the business/school/place of worship/healthcare facility has immunity from a COVID-19 liability claim if a person gets the coronavirus at their location.
The only exception is for “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm.”
So unless, your minister doffs his mask and bear hugs you—and you contract COVID-19—your church and the minister can’t be sued. Even then, it might be difficult to satisfy this gross negligence requirement.
What are the Details of the New Legislation?
The Act defines the term “COVID-19 liability claim” to include any cause of action for the transmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure of COVID-19 to a person at any healthcare facility or on the premises of any entity, individual, or healthcare provider resulting in injury to or death of an individual, or is caused by actions of any healthcare provider or individual resulting in injury or death the a person.
This includes any acts or omissions by a healthcare facility or healthcare provider in arranging for or providing medical care to an individual that results in injury or death due to COVID-19 or where the pandemic “reasonably interfered with the arranging for or the providing of healthcare services or medical care at issue” to the individual.
The Act applies to any claims that occur until July 14, 2021.
With the enactment of the COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act, Georgia joins a number of other states that have tried to limit the liability for businesses, healthcare facilities, and other entities from injury and death caused by the coronavirus. So, if you contract COVID-19, in many circumstances, you’ll be unable to bring a lawsuit.
If you questions about the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act or about a situation where you or a family member has been injured, including harm caused by an accident, please contact our Atlanta personal injury law firm at 404-Justice (404-587-8423). We are happy to provide you with a free consultation when it’s convenient to you.