COVID-19: North Carolina Businesses Now Shielded from COVID-19-based Claims
New bipartisan legislation provides liability protections for North Carolina businesses that develop COVID-19 mitigation plans. Both houses of the General Assembly passed House Bill 118 (now Session Law 2020-89) by an overwhelming majority, and Governor Cooper signed the bill into law this past Thursday, July 2, 2020. The protection became effective as soon as it was signed into law.
What does this new law mean for North Carolina businesses? In short, businesses that create COVID-19 mitigation plans would be protected from claims that another person contracted COVID-19 based on the property owner or business owner’s negligent act.
This protection only applies to claims that arise within six months of the rescission or expiration of the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency (Executive Order No. 116), and does not apply to Workers’ Compensation claims. It also does not apply to claims based on gross negligence, willful or wanton action, or intentional wrongdoing.
This liability shield builds on a limited immunity that already exists for certain North Carolina businesses Section 4.14 of Senate Bill 704 / Session Law 2020-3 protected businesses deemed “essential” from suits based on a customer or employee contracting COVID-19 while doing business or working on site, and protected emergency response entities from COVID-19-related suits from the people they serve. For more on the impact to the health care industry, see this alert discussing the impact of SL 2020-3 on that particular industry.
Business owners and operators may want to begin preparing written plans now, if they have not already, in order to take advantage of the new liability shield.