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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday signed into law a bill that provides businesses and health care facilities and workers with immunity from COVID-19-related litigation.
The development follows similar moves to shield businesses from COVID-19 liability by other states.
It also comes as U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans are pushing for businesses and health care workers to be protected from “opportunistic lawsuits” as companies reopen after the coronavirus lockdown.
The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act states 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 defendant showed “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm.”
The law also creates a rebuttable presumption that a claimant assumed the risk of contracting COVID-19 when the business or entity takes certain steps, such as posting a warning sign at the entry to the premises stating that: “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.”
In addition to medical professionals, such as physicians and paramedics, and health care facilities including nursing homes and hospitals, the law shields certain manufacturers and distributors of personal protective equipment and sanitizer.
Entities shielded from liability by the Act also include private businesses, religious and educational organizations, political and governmental bodies and their partners, managers, officers, directors, employees and officials.
The rebuttable presumption does not apply to cases of gross negligence, willful or wanton misconduct or reckless or intentional infliction of harm, the Act states.
It also states that it will not limit any immunity protections provided under state or federal law.
S.B. 359 was approved by Georgia lawmakers June 26 and is one of the final bills passed by the Georgia General Assembly during its 2020 legislative session.
The law takes immediate effect and applies to causes of action until July 14, 2021.
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.
A survey by U.K.-based law firm Clyde & Co. LLP found that more than 52% of insurers in Australia are worried about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have on their employees, Asia Insurance Review reported. The survey included local and international insurers as well as intermediaries to understand the implications of the pandemic on the insurance industry.