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Georgia Legislature Passes Bill to Limit Liability From COVID-19-Related Claims

On June 26, 2020, the Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill (SB) 359 to limit liability for COVID-19-related claims. The bill, which is titled “Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act,” has not yet been signed by Governor Brian Kemp. Several states have enacted similar legislation, including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

SB 359 protects covered entities and individuals from liability for injury or death related to COVID-19 “unless the claimant proves that the actions … showed: gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm.” Under the bill, a “COVID-19 liability claim” includes those for “[t]ransmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure [to the virus] … resulting in injury to or death of a claimant” and for “[m]anufacturing, labeling, donating, or distributing personal protective equipment [PPE] or sanitizer … which departs from normal … that proximately results in injury to or death of a claimant.” PPE is defined to include, but is not limited to, “gloves, masks, face shields, safety glasses, shoes, earplugs, muffs, respirators, coveralls, vests, and full body suits.”

Covered entities are defined specifically to include healthcare facilities and healthcare providers, as well as associations, companies, corporations, governmental entities, religious or educational organizations, and volunteer organizations, among others. In addition, the bill provides immunity to individuals.

SB 359 creates an assumption of the risk defense when specific warnings are posted and/or published to the public and meet size and placement requirements. Availability of this defense would be in addition to the immunities provided in the bill.

SB 359 would take effect “upon its approval by the Governor or upon its becoming law without such approval or on August 7, 2020, whichever occurs first.” If enacted, the new law would apply to claims “accruing until July 14, 2021.”

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 195

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About this Author

Amie M. Willis Employment Law Attorney Atlanta GA Ogletree Deakins
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Amie Willis has practiced law since 1996 and joined Ogletree in 2009. 

She has gained extensive experience in employment matters representing employers across the country in a wide variety of industries, including school districts and municipalities, manufacturing, hospitality, technology and health care.  Since 2005, Amie has primarily represented large and small health care clients in New Mexico and Georgia.  While Amie provides client counseling and training on a wide variety of topics, she also litigates civil cases on behalf of employers in state and federal courts, and before...

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