Georgia House passes bill to stop COVID-19 lawsuits against businesses

Georgia Rep. Trey Kelley, left, is the sponsor of House Bill 112, which would extend Georgia’s existing COVID-19 liability law for another year, until July 2022. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Georgia Rep. Trey Kelley, left, is the sponsor of House Bill 112, which would extend Georgia’s existing COVID-19 liability law for another year, until July 2022. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

A bill preventing lawsuits against businesses when a worker or customer catches the coronavirus passed Tuesday in the Georgia House.

The House advanced the bill 99-68 along party lines, with majority Republicans saying struggling businesses need protections and Democrats objecting because employees would be unable to seek legal relief when unsafe conditions result in illness.

The legislation, House Bill 112, would extend Georgia’s existing COVID-19 liability law for another year, until July 2022. The measure will next be considered by the state Senate.

State Rep. Trey Kelley, a Republican from Cedartown, said businesses and hospitals should be able to stay open without fear of being sued.

“At a time when they’re being attacked by this horrible virus, what we don’t need is for them to be attacked by frivolous lawsuits,” said Kelley, the bill’s sponsor.

Democrats said state law should also shield workers from businesses that fail to provide protective equipment or require masks.

“We have prioritized businesses. We haven’t done anything for the workers,” said state Rep. Dewey McClain, a Democrat from Lawrenceville. “Everyone wants businesses to be open, but do we want to take care of the workers? If you want to take care of the workers, you would vote no on this.”

Under the law, companies are shielded from legal liability unless they show “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm.”

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