Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act

Georgia joins a number of other states that have tried to limit the liability for businesses from injury and death caused by the coronavirus. The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act (the “Act”), addressing the business risks of operating during COVID-19, became effective Friday, August 7, 2020. The Act shields healthcare facilities, healthcare providers, entities, and individuals from liability in actions involving COVD-19 claims unless “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm” is shown.

The Act’s heightened standard is reinforced by a rebuttable presumption of the risk by a claimant when any receipt or proof of purchase for entry to a facility includes a warning in at least ten-point Arial font or there is a warning sign on the premises in at least one-inch Arial font apart from any other text.  The language required is:

“Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death of 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.” 

O.C.G.A. § 51-16-3.

The Act defines “entity” broadly, including any association, institution, corporation, company or educational organization, county, municipality, or governmental body, department, managers, officers, directors, employees, contractors, independent contractors, among other organizations.  Healthcare facility retains its meaning from the general health provisions of the Georgia Code. Additionally, the Act’s stated purpose makes clear that the prescribed immunity is to be far-reaching, so healthcare institutions are provided “additional flexibility to provide the critical assistance and care needed” by Georgia’s residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, like its definition “entity,” the Act defines a “COVID-19 liability claim” broadly to include causes of action for “[t]ransmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure of COVID-19 to a claimant: at any healthcare facility or on the premises of any entity, individual, or healthcare provider, resulting in injury to or death of a claimant.”  “Premises” include all real property in Georgia, whether “residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, or other.”  In Georgia, as of August 12, 2020, the virus has killed at least 4,456 people and infected 226,153 people. The potential for tort litigation is unprecedented.  The Act will likely discourage those with less meritorious claims from bringing suit and will further ensure that only the most serious claims will be able to survive scrutiny in court.  The Act applies to any claims that occur until July 14, 2021. 

Please consult ELS or an employment lawyer to get additional and specific information.