The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act (GCPBSA) is now in effect and protects businesses and individuals in many circumstances from COVID-19 exposure claims (and other similar types of claims) that accrue before July 14, 2021. With the passage of GCPBSA, Georgia businesses now have protection from civil lawsuits arising out of alleged COVID-19 exposure, transmission, infection or potential exposure. In order to take advantage of this protection, businesses must take specific proactive steps and thus need to understand the details of this new law. You can view the GCPBSA document Governor Kemp’s latest executive orders here.
Details Of The GCPBSA
The GCPBSA creates a rebuttable presumption that a plaintiff bringing a civil case in Georgia against a person or business related to COVID-19 assumed the risk of exposure, transmission, infection, or potential exposure related to COVID-19. This presumption, however is rebuttable. In other words, a plaintiff can try to establish that they did not assume the risk, but this must be established before a claim may proceed.
Assumption of the risk is normally a legal defense that a business or individual being sued has to prove by showing that a plaintiff (1) had actual knowledge of the risk of danger he or she claims caused him or her harm; (2) understood and appreciated the risk and danger; and (3) voluntarily exposed himself or herself to that risk. The GCPBSA, however, reverses this burden of proof and requires that a plaintiff bringing a COVID-19-related claim will have to show that the plaintiff did not assume the risk of exposure, transmission, infection, or potential exposure related to COVID-19. If the plaintiff cannot meet this burden, then a defendant will likely prevail in any such lawsuit.
This shifting of the burden of proof, however, does not apply to allegations of gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless or intentional infliction of harm.
Magic Language To Trigger GCPBSA Protection
In order to utilize the GCPBSA’s protections, businesses that sell ticket for entry to premises must post signage in at least one-inch Arial font placed apart from any other text at all points of entry to their property OR include on receipts or proof of purchase for entry in at least 10-point Arial font placed apart from any other text, 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.
For businesses or individuals who do not sell tickets for entry onto their property, the liability protections under the GCPBSA can be triggered by posting signage in at least one-inch Arial font placed apart from any other text at all points of entry to their property that states the following:
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.
What Should Employers Do?
Employers should immediately post signage at the entrance to the businesses property, offices, or job site with the language above regardless of whether the business sells tickets for entry to the premises. Note, however that no strategy can completely eliminate a business’s obligation to take reasonable actions to protect employees and customers. The CDC and OSHA have published guidelines and guidance that businesses should follow, and all Georgia businesses should comply with Governor Kemp’s latest executive orders. Following these guidance and orders is the best proof that a business has acted reasonably in responding to COVID-19 hazards.
The rules and government guidelines regarding the COVID-19 situation are rapidly changing and developing. Schwartz Rollins LLC is monitoring these changes and will continue to provide updates as we deem appropriate. This information is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation. Feel free to contact us with specific questions, 404.844.4130