What You Need to Know about Georgia’s COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act
Thousands of businesses across the nation are seeing a flurry of lawsuits related to the Covid-19 pandemic filed by customers and employees. These lawsuits will increase in number, mainly because of the absence of a cohesive plan by state and federal administrations to deal with business reopening and the potential for liability potential.
According to a tracker of COVID-19 cases, by August 13, 2020, there were about 4,280 COVID-19 lawsuits filed against businesses all over the U.S.
As a result of pressure from various business organizations in the state, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the Georgia Senate Bill 359. Known as Georgia’s COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act, the legislation is a big win for public healthcare providers and businesses in the state, with the legislature citing the need to provide additional flexibility to organizations providing critical care and assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.
What Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act?
The COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act offers protection to healthcare providers, public-facing facilities, businesses, and individuals from simple negligence accusations in lawsuits related to Covid-19. The new law requires that a claimant must prove that there was gross negligence, reckless infliction of harm, willful or wanton misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm to them by a business or facility.
Through the act, the state legislature also moved to protect healthcare providers and facilities from simple negligence claims in exposure, transmission, infection, or potential exposure to the Covid-19 virus. The law provides them with a rebuttable presumption of assumption of any risk if a provider posts a public and specific disclaimer of liability at entry points to their facilities.
What’s more, the act also offers protection to businesses from liability claims for damages related to Covid-19, except in instances where a claimant can prove gross negligence, misconduct, intentional infliction of harm, or reckless infliction of harm that occurred on the business’ premises.
How Your Business In Georgia Can Use The Act To Avoid Falling Victim To A Lawsuit?
To protect yourself from a claimant who may want to sue you for Covid-19 transmission at your business premises, you need to have had one or both of the precautions below in place when they visited your business:
1. Notification with a Receipt or Proof-Of-Purchase
- The claimant got a receipt, wristband, paper ticket, or some other proof of entry with a printed warning.
The full text of the warning sign can be found on the Georgia General Assembly website and warns anyone who enters your premises that they waive their civil liability against you for an injury caused by Covid-19. The waiver covers any gathering or meeting at your premises, with exceptions only made if the claimant can prove gross negligence, willful misconduct, or reckless harm inflicted on them while on your premises.
The Warning must be printed in at least 10-point Arial font and placed separately from any other text on the receipt.
A Posted statement On Your Premises
When the claimant visited your business at the point of entry, you had a sign printed in Arial font of at least one-inch height, with a statement stating that you would not be liable for the injury or death of anyone entering your business premises due to Covid-19. The full text of the warning sign is on the Georgia General Assembly website.
According to Georgia attorney Gary Bruce, when you follow one or both of the measures above and take reasonable protective steps, you will have a rebuttable presumption of the assumption of risk to protect your business from legal liability within limits stated in the act. It is essential to note an explicit sunset provision, which states that it only applies to causes of action until July 14, 2021.
Use Technology to Avoid Liability If Your Business Has Operations outside Georgia
Georgia is one of only ten states with legislation or executive orders providing a liability shield to businesses from Covid-19 claims from customers and staff. As a result, there is still the possibility that, if you operate in jurisdictions that are not protected by the COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act or similar laws, you might not argue that customers or employees assume Covid-19 risk by entering your premises. In this case, two technological solutions could reduce the potential for coronavirus infection and the risk of legal liability to customers who may seek to file claims:
Leverage e-Commerce to Reduce or Eliminate Customer Foot Traffic to Your Business
The Covid-19 pandemic is driving the stay-at-home economy’s development and changing how people learn, play, shop, and work forever. Because of this, and with more companies trying to keep business off-premises, there is a defined shift toward web-based education, online entertainment, and e-commerce. This development is a boon to companies that offer services online, many of which show that customers can use the internet and other tech resources to access their services from home in ways that were unheard-of just a couple of years ago. When your customers do not visit your business’ physical location, you do not need to worry about lawsuits if they contract Covid-19.
Have Your Staff Work from Home
A significant effect of the pandemic is that millions of people worldwide work remotely due to the risk of infection. According to The SHRM COVID-19 Business Index, 64 percent of employees in the U.S. now work from home. This “new normal” is possible because of the range of managed cloud services available today that provides messaging, video conferencing, collaboration, data storage and security, backup, VoIP, remote updates, etc.
A Managed I.T. Services Company Will Set Up Secure Remote Working And e-Commerce Infrastructure
There are benefits to e-commerce and remote working for businesses, even those covered by Georgia’s COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act. However, setting up the I.T. infrastructure necessary to enable customers to shop or access services online, and for your workers to access your platforms from the safety of their homes opens up avenues for cyberattacks.
If you are worried about opening up security loopholes, talk to 360 Smart Networks, a leading provider of Cybersecurity and Managed I.T. Services in Atlanta, Charlotte, and across the South-Eastern United States.