New Protections for Mississippi Businesses During COVID-19


July 13, 2020

New Protections for Mississippi Businesses During COVID-19

 

June 8, 2020 – the Mississippi Legislature and Governor Reeves enacted new legislation (S.B. 3049 – Mississippi Back to Business Liability Assurance and Health Care Emergency Response Liability Protection Act) that ensures the protection of businesses, nonprofits, churches, and healthcare workers from COVID-19 related claims – a potential impediment to getting businesses back on-line. A concern especially for businesses who may have been required to stay open during the pandemic or have already begun to open, this act relieves the threat of lawsuits over COVID-19 cases by establishing reasonable safeguards and giving our courts clear direction to distinguish valid claims from meritless lawsuits in this unprecedented time. This Act is comprehensive in its coverage, shielding most entities and organizations from lawsuits related to COVID-19 if they show a “good faith” effort to follow public health guidelines. The bill states that if a business “attempts in good faith to follow applicable public health guidance shall be immune from suit for civil damages for any injuries or death resulting from or related to actual or alleged exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19 in the course of or through the performance or provision of its functions or services.

Two major components of the bill are:

  • The standard of proof is tremendous. It states, “The immunities provided in this act shall not apply where the plaintiff shows, by clear and convincing evidence, that a defendant, or any employee or agent thereof, acted with actual malice or willful, intentional misconduct.”
  • Businesses will be protected for up to one year after the end of the state of emergency.

 

Below is a quick synopsis of what the legislation does.

  • Who is covered?
    person is defined as someone who attempts, in good faith, to follow applicable public health guidance.
  • What is the definition of a person?
    Person means an individual, state, political subdivision, association, educational entity, for-profit or non-profit entity, religious organization, or charitable organization.
  • What is the definition of public health guidance?
    Public health guidance means any written guidance related to the COVID-19 State of Emergency, issued by an executive agency or regulatory agency of the federal government or an executive agency of the State of Mississippi.
  • Who is not covered?
    Any defendant shown by clear and convincing evidence to have acted with actual malice or willful or intentional misconduct is not covered.

Who has liability protection?
Premises: This means any physical place serving a commercial, residential, educational, religious, governmental, cultural, charitable, or health care purpose.
Businesses: The bill protects businesses (essential and non-essential) through the definition of “person.”
Product liability: The legislation provides protections to anyone that designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes, or donates personal protective equipment in response to COVID-19.

 

Congressional leaders are also discussing federal protection for businesses in future coronavirus relief spending bills.