Final approval given to bill aimed at COVID-19 lawsuits

The Georgia Capitol
The Georgia Capitol

A bill that would prevent lawsuits against businesses when a worker or customer catches the coronavirus received final approval Tuesday in the Georgia General Assembly.

The state Senate voted 36-17 for the bill, mostly along party lines. Republicans, who hold the majority, said struggling businesses need protections, and Democrats objected because employees would be unable to seek legal relief when unsafe conditions cause illness. Two Democrats, state Sens. Emanuel Jones of Decatur and Michael “Doc” Rhett of Marietta, voted for the bill.

The legislation, now headed to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature, would extend Georgia’s existing COVID-19 liability law for another year, until July 2022.

When presenting House Bill 112, Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Strickland, a McDonough Republican, said the legislation balanced the need for businesses and health care professionals to be able to do their jobs without fear of being sued while also ensuring that customers and patients are safe.

“This bill continues to provide stability for our citizens as we navigate another year of COVID-19,” Strickland said.

Senate Special Judiciary Chairwoman Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, attempted to amend the bill to allow an employee to request worker’s compensation benefits if he or she contracts COVID-19 and is injured. The amendment failed.

“If we say we value essential workers, if we say but for them we could not be here, we need to put our proverbial money where our mouth is,” Jordan said.

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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