Gov. Kay Ivey signs into law protection against COVID-19 lawsuits

Gov. Kay Ivey this morning signed into law protection for businesses, healthcare providers and other groups from lawsuits related to the pandemic. SB30 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, became effective immediately as Act No. 2021-4.

Governor signs priority bills Friday, Feb. 12.

The Alabama House approved Orr’s legislation on a vote of 86-4 Thursday, Feb. 11. Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, handled the bill in the House. The Alabama Senate voted 28-1 Feb. 4 for the bill that protects those operating safely and responsibly during the pandemic from unwarranted and financially devastating lawsuits.

The Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, a coalition of 24 associations and businesses, including the Alabama Retail Association, praised Orr, Faulkner and the governor for their leadership on this much needed law.

ACJRC summary of SB30

Entities covered include businesses, nonprofits, LLCs, health care providers, educational entities, churches, governmental entities and cultural institutions operating in Alabama, as well as individuals associated with these entities.

Those groups already had COVID-liability protection based on a May 8 emergency gubernatorial proclamation. Orr’s legislation codifies that protection after the state is no longer under an emergency health order.

The bill provides civil immunity and protects against certain damages claimed by individuals who allege that they contracted or were exposed to COVID-19 due to an act or omission of a business or healthcare provider. The law “restores the confidence” and reassurance of law businesses and healthcare workers need as they work to rebound from COVID-19, Faulkner said.

In a statement after the Senate vote, Orr said, “For our economy to continue to survive and recover, these groups need to know that they will be protected if they are making every effort to follow health and sanitization protocols.”

Under the new law, an entity would be liable if it acts with wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct that can be proven under a “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard. Following applicable public health guidance frees the entities from liability. That guidance includes the state health order and guidelines from the state health department, the Centers for Disease Control and OSHA. The recent OSHA guidance does not create any new legal requirements for employers, Alabama Retail’s employment law partner explains in a Feb. 4 memo.

The law’s immunity provisions are retroactive to March 13, 2020, and remain in effect until a year after the state’s COVID-19 health emergency order expires.

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Originally posted 9:35 a.m. Feb. 4, 2021