September 26, 2022

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Many businesses have suffered tremendously from the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Closures, occupancy limits, and other public health measures led to a loss of business. Yet, those open had to face a new challenge: increased liability. 

In order to protect businesses from civil lawsuits regarding virus exposure, states have passed and extended legislation over the past year. Notably, the state of Georgia has expanded its COVID-19 Business Safety Act from July 14, 2021, to July 14, 2022, giving businesses another year’s protection against virus-related threats. These benefits will remain available for those who go through the necessary measures to ensure security.

All business owners must understand the laws and how to apply them in each situation. While extended, there are still limitations that employers and employees should be aware of. 

 Are You Protected? 

Due to the pandemic and its ongoing threat, society has put in a continuous effort to spread awareness and stop the spread of the virus. Because of this, the law presumes that there is an assumption of risk present when there is a civil case surrounding COVID-19 contraction and exposure in the workplace. This change is abnormal, as the assumption of risk is something that the defendant would have to prove rather than the plaintiff.

While the assumption of risk is rebuttable, or the plaintiff can prove otherwise, the law will favor the business in question. In order for the accuser to establish a foundation for their claims, they must first prove that they were not aware of the risk of exposure, infection, transmission, or potential exposure.

Ensuring Protection 

The law applies differently when the business sells tickets for their event, property, or service. In either case, an essential factor to protection is posting and distributing written statements that identify and educate visitors and customers on the risk of attendance. 

For physical spaces that require tickets upon entry, the receipts, or tickets themselves, must contain the message included in the Act using at least 10-point Arial font and separated from other text. Documenting the warning will help ensure that every individual is aware of the situation and risks associated with the pandemic. 

Without selling tickets, a business must post its statements regarding the risk of exposure, infection, transmission, or potential exposure in the form of signage. As referenced in the Act, these warning signs posted in at least one-inch Arial font, at all points of entry, and separate from any other text allow the business to correctly assume that all who enter the property are aware of the risk.

Avoiding Mishaps 

The law was created to protect businesses; however, it does not allow businesses protection they do not deserve. There are many instances that the law does not protect businesses, including cases involving: 

Gross negligence

Willful and wanton misconduct 

Reckless or intentional infliction of harm

Workers compensation 

To utilize the benefits and protections of the Act, businesses must take a proactive effort to inform and protect their customers, clients, and employees from the safety concerns of the pandemic. 

With vaccines becoming widely available in the U.S., Ronald Hulsey of Smith Hulsey Law  suggests that companies “continue to follow regulations and CDC guidelines to help protect themselves and the community.” Following the guidelines will keep everyone safe and protect companies against unfair damages resulting from a COVID-19 related incident.