Civil Immunity for COVID-19 Claims Extended for Georgia Healthcare Facilities, Including Personal Care Homes and Assisted Living Communities

Footnotes for this article are available at the end of this page.

The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act (the “Bill”), which Governor Kemp is expected to sign the Bill into law, would provide civil immunity from certain liability claims related to COVID-19. The Bill follows Governor Kemp’s April 14, 2020 Executive Order for “Designation of Auxiliary Emergency Management Workers and Emergency Management Activities,” which similarly limits the liability of employees, staff, and contractors of healthcare institutions and medical facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.1

Pursuant to the Bill, no healthcare facility, healthcare provider, entity, or individual, may be held liable for damages arising out of certain COVID-19 liability claims accruing until July 14, 2021, but not to any causes of action thereafter. The Bill does not protect facilities against gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm. Further, in order for healthcare facilities to be afforded a rebuttable presumption that any potential future claimant assumed the risk, facilities must post a sign containing the following warning, in at least one-inch Arial font, placed apart from any other text:

Warning

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.

The term “healthcare facility” is defined to include hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, personal care homes, intermediate care facilities, ambulatory surgical centers, and home health agencies. While the Bill cites to the statutory definition of healthcare facility, which predated the establishment of the assisted living community licensure category, this definition is generally interpreted by the Department of Community Health to include assisted living communities as a type of personal care home. The Bill also incorporates institutions, defined to include facilities used for assisted living care or personal care, which further supports that assisted living communities are included. In addition, the Bill also expressly extends the civil liability protections to “entities” such as corporations, limited liability companies, and partnerships.

COVID-19 liability claims are also defined broadly to include all claims for transmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure of COVID-19 resulting in injury to or death of a claimant; acts or omissions by a healthcare facility or healthcare provider in arranging for or providing healthcare services or medical care to the claimant resulting in injury or death of the claimant for COVID-19; or situations in which the response to COVID-19 interfered with the arranging for or the providing of healthcare services or medical care.

For the full text of Senate Bill 359, please click here; for AGG’s additional insight into other implications of the Bill, please click here. For more information, please contact Hedy S. Rubinger, Jessica T. Grozine, or Charmaine A. Mech.

 

[1] For more information on the Executive Order, see: https://www.agg.com/news-insights/publications/georgia-order-limits-liability-of-healthcare-institution-staff-during-covid-19-state-of-emergency/.

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