Georgia House Bill Seeks Extension of COVID Liability Protections for Businesses, Hospitals

Friday, January 29th, 2021

COVID-19 liability protections for Georgia businesses and hospitals would be extended until July 14, 2022, under a bill introduced in the General Assembly.

Since August, the liability protections have shielded businesses and health-care facilities in Georgia from lawsuits brought by people who contract COVID-19 in all but the worst negligence or recklessness cases.

The bill, sponsored by Georgia House Majority Whip Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, only calls for a one-year extension. However, it could undergo changes as lawmakers and lobbyists haggle over what level of liability protections to provide going forward.

After passing in late June, the liability protections were hailed by business leaders as a way for Georgia enterprises from mom-and-pop shops to sports stadiums to feel assured they will not face crippling litigation during the pandemic.

Unions and employee advocates worried Georgia workers will be left in the lurch as thousands of Georgia’s front-line and low-wage workers struggle to stay safe from the virus while keeping their jobs.

Republican lawmakers in the Georgia Senate took issue with the “gross negligence” threshold for bringing a damage claim, which they argued would be too weak to fully protect businesses and hospitals.

That threshold marked a compromise between health-care professionals, business leaders and trial attorneys in the final days of last year’s legislative session, which resumed in June after a three-month suspension due to COVID-19.

Kelley chairs the House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System, where the liability protections were assigned for debate last June.