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About the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act After nearly a year of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, most of us are getting used to taking safety measures such as wearing masks everywhere we go. Whatever your safety routine includes, we all have become keenly aware that nothing is foolproof when it comes to avoiding COVID-19. That said, we still must go on with life and have responsibilities that require us to sometimes conduct business face to face.

So do businesses have any responsibility when it comes to premises liability and protecting us from the virus when we walk through their doors? As of August 5, 2020, businesses and healthcare facilities are protected under certain circumstances if a customer or patient becomes infected with COVID-19 after patronizing the business or entering the healthcare facility.

What Senate Bill 359 means to the general public

While this law, known as the “Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act,” was passed and signed by Governor Brian Kemp, it does have some limitations. First and foremost, as written, the law has included an expiration date for the protections it offers. Under SB 359, businesses and healthcare facilities are protected until July 14, 2021.

If you contract coronavirus while grocery shopping, you may still have some options. The key concepts that could open the door to filing a claim for transmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure are:

  • Gross negligence, which is an “absence of the degree of care which every man of common sense, however inattentive he may be, exercises under the same or similar circumstances.”
  • Willful and wanton misconduct, which “demonstrates an utter disregard for the physical wellbeing of the participant. While willful or wanton misconduct does not require an intent to injure, such conduct is so outrageous that injury is almost a certainty.”
  • Reckless infliction of harm results when the act causing the injury was so careless that the victim deserves compensation for any resulting mental or emotional injury.
  • Intentional infliction of harm is where extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally causes severe emotional distress to another as a result of suffering a physical injury.

Outside of proving these instances, the State of Georgia has put the onus on patrons and patients who are deemed to have entered at their own risk with two exceptions discussed below.

Businesses must give fair warning

Under ordinary circumstances, a business has a responsibility to make their premises safe for their customers, and that still holds true unless we are talking about COVID-19. While the new law shielding businesses and healthcare practices makes it more difficult to pursue a civil suit even if you can successfully trace your infection back to a specific location, all hope is not lost.

All businesses are required to provide those entering their doors with very specific warnings before they can shirk their responsibility. There are different warnings that apply to opposite sides of the coin under the new law:

General businesses

  1. For the business to be protected it must provide a claimant or individual with proof of entry by way of a receipt or some form of proof of purchase such as a wristband or venue ticket that shows they were granted entry or attendance. The proof of purchase must include a statement in at least ten-point Arial font separate from other text with a warning stating the following warning:
  • “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.”
  1. Or, an individual or entity of the premises has posted a warning sign at its public entrance of at least one-inch Arial font separate from other text, which states:
  • “Warning. 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.”

Healthcare facilities

For healthcare facilities or providers to be protected, they must post a warning sign at their entrances in at least one-inch Arial font separate from other text, which states:

  • “Warning. 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.”

If the appropriate signage is not posted in compliance with the law, and you become ill, you may be able to pursue a claim, even for wrongful death, should a loved one die as a result of contracting COVID-19 from the business or healthcare facility.

If you have contracted COVID-19 from a business or medical facility that didn’t provide you with proper notice of the risks, or that allowed behavior so risky that you became ill, you may be able to pursue a claim for your injuries and damages.

To schedule your free case evaluation today with the results-driven Atlanta premises liability attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP, call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.

 

 

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