Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law Senate Bill 359 on August 5, 2020 which will provide Georgia businesses and healthcare facilities with certain levels of immunity from legal claims regarding COVID-19 over the next year.
Senate Bill 359 has created certain conditions under which your business will be protected from COVID-19 liability claims from individuals who may enter your place of business and later shown to contract COVID-19 there or elsewhere. In order to maintain your immunity, the law says that:
GA Code 51-16-3(a)(2): An individual or entity of the premises has posted at a point of entry, if present, to the premises, 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 contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises."
A sample sign is linked here.
What does this mean and how does it apply to my business?
Senate Bill 359 creates several definitions such as:
COVID-19 - means severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and any mutation or viral fragments thereof, or any disease or condition caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which were subject of the public health state of emergency declared by the Governor on March 14, 2020.
COVID-19 liability claim - means a cause of action for transmission, 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 or death of a claimant or caused by any actions of any healthcare provider or individual resulting in injury to or death of a claimant.
Entity - means any association, institution, corporation, company, trust, limited liability company, partnership, religious or educational organization, political subdivision, county, municipality, other governmental office or governmental body, department, division, bureau, volunteer organization; including trustees, partners, limited partners, managers, officers, directors, employees, contractors, independent contractors, vendors, officials, and agents thereof, as well as any other organization other than a healthcare facility.
Premises - means, other than a healthcare facility, any property owned, occupied, leased, operated, maintained, or managed by an individual or entity, whether residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, or other real property located within the State of Georgia.
How long will my business have immunity?
Now that the Governor has signed Senate Bill 359 into law, this act will pertain to any claims from August 5, 2020 until July 14, 2021.
What additional steps do I need to take?
While Georgia's law is very broadly written, it will not protect you in the event of:
Willfull and Wanton Misconduct
Reckless Infliction of Harm
Intentional Infliction of Harm
In short, your business will need to continue to make a good faith effort to keep its employees, customers, and/or visitors safe while on your premises. This includes steps like social distancing, masks, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, and following the guidance of public health officials.