COVID-19 Liability for Business Owners
At Roland, Abbott, & DeZoort Insurance, we have had multiple conversations over the past few months with clients concerned about liability related to COVID-19. Most concerns are related to the liability a business may face if a customer claims they contracted COVID-19 in your business. On August 5, 2020, Georgia’s Governor, Brian Kemp, signed into law Senate Bill 359, the COVID-19 Pandemic Safety Act. This new piece of legislation removes liability for business owners in the event of someone contracting COVID-19 at your place of work with basic criteria met. Below we have copied the pertinent parts of a release from the Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia with downloadable templates for signs you can post in your business. Here's what the law says.
SB 359 says that no healthcare facility, healthcare provider, entity, or individual, shall be held liable for damages in an action involving a COVID-19 liability claim unless the claimant proves that the actions of the healthcare facility, healthcare provider, entity, or individual, showed: gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm. This raises the standard of care from negligence to gross negligence and will help prevent frivolous COVID-19 related lawsuits.
Additionally, the bill creates a rebuttable presumption of the assumption of risk if a business displays a sign in at least one-inch Arial font placed apart from any other text, a written warning stating the following:
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 COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.
The Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia has created sign templates you can print and display in the entrance to your business.
The protections in the bill exist until July 14, 2021. The General Assembly will revisit this issue in the 2021 legislative session if needed. The US Congress is also considering federal COVID liability protections that could enhance the protections provided by the state. We expect action at the federal level this month.
If you have further questions about the liability you may be facing as an individual or a business owner, please don't hesitate to call us. We’ve helped business owners navigate liability for decades and would love to do the same for you