A bill that would extend the length of time Georgia businesses are protected from certain COVID-19-related lawsuits cleared the House on Feb. 9.
The House voted 99-68 in favor of House Bill 112, which extends the applicability of the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act by a year, from July 14, 2021, to July 14, 2022.
Rep. Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, who introduced the bill, said it would give business owners the certainty they need to continue operating during the pandemic.
"We know that our businesses continue to struggle to stay open. We know that our hospitals and our medical community continue to struggle to take care of the Georgians that our constituents at a time when they're being attacked by this horrible virus," Kelley said. "What we don't need is for them to be attacked by frivolous lawsuits."
The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act prevents health care facilities and providers and other businesses, including those who sell personal protective equipment, from being sued because of potential exposure to or transmission of COVID-19.
It excludes protections for businesses or health care providers that have been proven negligent or guilty of "willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm."
The measure has received support from the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
The governor issued an executive order in April that included similar liability protections for health care workers during the COVID-19 public health state of emergency.
Critics said the business tort immunity could limit protections for employees and the public. Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven, said the measure is "too vague and too broad" and places shareholders and CEOs over Georgians. He referred to a COVID-19 outbreak last spring in Iowa.
"Supervisors knew about the hazards that they were sending workers to face," Wilson said. "Plant managers are alleged to have...