COVID-19 Legal Update: Liability Safe Harbor

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Morgan P. Abbott and D. Blaine Sanders
Robinson Bradshaw Publication
July 6, 2020

North Carolina businesses, nonprofits and individuals now enjoy increased immunity protections from liability for alleged transmission of COVID-19. On July 2, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law House Bill 118: COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor, which provides limited immunity to any business alleged to be liable for an act or omission that resulted in the contraction of COVID-19, so long as such alleged acts or omissions do not rise to the level of gross negligence, willful or wanton conduct, or intentional wrongdoing. These protections will extend until 180 days after Gov. Cooper rescinds Executive Order No. 116 declaring a state of emergency due to COVID-19. 

The practical impact of the limited immunity is that plaintiffs will not be able to maintain a negligence claim against businesses, nonprofits and individuals where plaintiffs allege they contracted COVID-19. This law should decrease substantially the liability risk and cost of defense for businesses that have operated during the pandemic. 

To enjoy these protections, businesses must provide reasonable notice of actions taken by the business to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. This could include, for example, posting signs and website notices or providing employees and visitors with hard copy or electronic information about policies for social distancing, mask wearing and sanitizing. By extending the protections to individuals, the business will not be liable for the failure of any one individual to comply with the list of actions provided pursuant to the notice requirement. The bill does not limit the ability of workers to file workers' compensation claims if they contracted COVID-19 in the course of their employment, but workers who file such claims will continue to have to prove that they in fact did contract the virus on the job. 

Please reach out to a member of the Robinson Bradshaw Coronavirus Response Team or your regular contact at the firm with any questions.

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