To be eligible for the rebuttable presumption, the business must post the warnings at a point of entry to the premises.
Although Georgia joined several other states in urging Congress to provide a liability shield on a national level, Georgia did not wait to protect its businesses. On August 5, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp signed the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act, which took effect immediately. The act amends Georgia’s tort claims law to provide new definitions, exceptions and a presumption against liability. The act provides a general shield against liability as long as the businesses did not act with gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, or reckless or intentional disregard. At first glance, the law appears focused on healthcare as it applies to any “healthcare facility, healthcare provider, entity, or individual.” However, the term “entity” is defined very broadly to include most businesses.
The act also provides businesses a rebuttable presumption that the person who entered the business’ facility assumed the risk of being exposed or contracting COVID-19 by entering the facility or engaging with the business if the business provides a written warning to visitors. To be eligible for the rebuttable presumption, the business must post the warnings at a point of entry to the premises. The warning must include the following language:
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.
Additionally, the warnings must be in Arial font of at least 1 inch, which is 72 points or greater, and be placed apart from all other text.
For special events, the act allows warnings to be printed on tickets or wristbands. These warnings must be at least 10-point Arial font and appear apart from all other text. The warning must include the following language:
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.
Importantly, however, the act only provides a defense to lawsuits—it does not provide a bar to plaintiffs filing suits, which means that businesses would still incur costs to defend against lawsuits. More, the act only provides protection for businesses for potential or actual exposures that occur through July 14, 2021.
What This Means for Businesses
Businesses should still take the appropriate steps to comply with local requirements as well as the guidance issued by the CDC. Taking these steps, in addition to providing the warnings outlined in the act, will limit liability. To memorialize their compliance with the act, businesses should retain proof that the signs were posted by taking pictures of the signs at the entrance to the business.
About Duane Morris
Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan for, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.
For More Information
If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Sharon L. Caffrey, Joseph A. Ciucci, Meredith Gregston, any member of the COVID-19 Strategy Team or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.
Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.