Georgia Limits Liability for COVID-19 Claims
Georgia businesses may defeat COVID-19 claims and lawsuits if they demonstrate compliance with the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act (“Act”). The Act protects a broad range of individuals, businesses, governmental bodies, religious organizations, and educational institutions from state law claims related to the transmission of COVID-19. An Entity in compliance with the Act’s requirements is not liable under Georgia law for the “transmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure to COVID-19” of a person on the premises of the Entity.1
In addition to this immunity from liability, the Act creates a rebuttable “assumption of risk” designed to protect an Entity from claims relating to COVID-19 brought by a person accessing the premises of an Entity, but only if the Entity either: (a) posts required signage at the points of entry or (b) includes specified verbiage on a ticket, wristband, receipt or other proof of purchase to enter the premises.
Point of Entry Signage Method. For signage at the point of entry to trigger assumption of risk by those entering, the Entity must post the following statement in at least one-inch Arial font at each point of entry and apart from other signage:
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.
Proof of Purchase Method. For the “proof of purchase” method to trigger assumption of risk, the following statement must be printed apart from other text in at least ten-point Arial font on a proof of purchase (e.g., ticket, wristband, or purchase receipt):
Any person entering the premises waives all civil liability against this premises owner and operator for any injuries caused by the inherent risk associated with contracting COVID-19 at public gatherings, except for gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm, by the individual or entity of the premises.
Points of Caution. First, the Georgia Act only applies to causes of action accruing on or before July 14, 2021. Second, the Act will not protect an Entity from liability if an injured individual proves that the Entity was grossly negligent, engaged in willful and wanton misconduct, recklessly inflicted harm, or intentionally inflicted harm on the individual. To rely upon the protections of the Act, an Entity should follow social distancing, disinfection and other safety protocols outlined by public health officials, including but not limited to industry-specific guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”). Third, the Act specifically provides that it will not conflict with the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, and the Act also does not affect any federal protections for workers, such as those mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”). As such, employees have alternative routes for seeking compensation or other redress related to COVID-19 injuries.
Other States’ Legislation. Georgia is not alone in protecting entities from litigation related to COVID-19. To date, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming have enacted similar legislation or issued executive orders with various protections. In addition, nine other states have proposed similar legislation. If you have a business in Georgia or multi-state businesses, we are here to help guide you through the requirements of each of these state statutes/executive orders.
Federal Legislation. Employers should also monitor the recent bill proposed by Senators Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn. If passed in its present form, this bill would require claimants alleging injuries due to COVID-19 against businesses, nonprofits, schools, and government agencies to proceed in federal court and would allow liability only for acts of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Please call for specific advice on these situations or other unique scenarios which you encounter because these laws are complicated, and every situation is different.
 “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.
This informational alert provides an overview of a specific and developing situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular situation, person, or entity.