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Proposed Legislation Would Protect Businesses from COVID-19 Claims 

by Nicole Watson, James Weaver

Published: May, 2020

Submission: May, 2020

 



With pandemic-related legal filings on the rise across the country, the Waller Government Relations team has worked closely with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry to draft the Tennessee Business Recovery and Safe Harbor Act. This crucial legislation is designed to provide broad civil liability protection from “health emergency claims” for a wide array of covered entities in Tennessee, including many businesses, healthcare providers, educational entities, governmental entities, cultural institutions and churches.


The Waller team is currently engaging with various stakeholders and members of the General Assembly to prepare a vehicle and strategy for passage of the bill when the legislature reconvenes on June 1. While this legislation remains subject to revision throughout the legislative process, the Waller Government Relations team will be working diligently to enact critical liability protections for covered entities as Tennessee moves forward in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions. If you have any questions regarding the Tennessee Business Recovery and Safe Harbor Act, please contact Nicole Watson or James Weaver.


Covered Entity Protection


Under the Tennessee Business Recovery and Safe Harbor Act, a covered entity would not be liable for damages, injury, court costs, subrogation or death suffered or claimed by any person or entity as a result of, or in connection with, a health emergency claim related to the Coronavirus that results from any act or omission of the covered entity attempting to follow or respond to applicable public health guidance.


The Act defines a “health emergency claim” to include any cause of action that is related to the following circumstances:


  • The actual, alleged, or feared exposure to or contraction of coronavirus from the premises of a covered entity or otherwise related to or arising from its operations, products, or services provided on or off-premises;
  • The covered entity’s efforts to prevent or delay the spread of coronavirus including, but not limited to, any of the following:
    • Testing;
    • Monitoring, collecting, reporting, tracking, tracing, disclosing or investigating exposures or other information;
    • Using, supplying or servicing precautionary, diagnostic, collection or medical-related equipment, or supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE); and
    • Altering or discontinuing activities or services.

Burden of Proof


In order to overcome the liability protection afforded by this legislation, a plaintiff would need to demonstrate the following:


  • The standards and/or restrictions in effect when the claims arose and related to the covered entity’s business or operations under applicable public health guidance and direction, and
  • The specific conduct of the covered entity that constitutes gross negligence or willful misconduct relating to such standards and/or restrictions.

 


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