Franklin Schrum

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The COVID-19 Pandemic continues to send shockwaves throughout the United States and all other nations by impacting much more than just the way we live and go about our normal day. Today, in most states, it is considered a common norm to see someone wearing a mask, frequently using sanitizer, or even stocking up on an abnormal amount of household items like toilet paper. Globally, over a million lives have been lost, businesses have become bankrupt, and the economy initially fallen substantially due to the Pandemic. Prominent retailers such as Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and JCPenney have all filed for bankruptcy and more retailers and businesses will likely follow.

Our society is highly dependent on businesses staying open and remaining operational. Ironically, our dependence on these businesses is likely one of the major reasons that COVID-19 is spreading at such an alarming rate. Take our dependence on Amazon for example, our nation uses Amazon every day and this company delivers millions of packages each day. It has been estimated that just one Amazon driver delivers over 200 packages per day, but what if this one Amazon driver had COVID-19 while delivering packages? This one Amazon driver could infect over a thousand people per week. Thankfully, businesses have increased safety precautions such as routine testing, checking employees’ temperatures, and requiring employees to wear masks. However, due to the difficulty of actually detecting if one has COVID- 19, there is no 100% guarantee that employees are free of COVID-19. This creates fear in all employers that they could be liable to customers for transmitting COVID-19 and ultimately be subject to an unbearable number of lawsuits.

In response to these concerns, states have begun to implement measures to reduce the number of lawsuits a business may face due to COVID-19 and to reduce the long-term effects of COVID-19 in order for our society to start moving in a positive direction. In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp signed a new Act, the Georgia COVID-19 Business Safety Act, on August 5, 2020 and this law was put into effect immediately. In essence, the Georgia COVID-19 Business Safety Act encourages businesses to continue operation without facing liability for possibly transmitting COVID-19, which, in return, should reduce the number of COVID-19 related lawsuits, benefit the economy, reduce unemployment, and decrease the likelihood of more businesses going bankrupt. While it is clear that the Act, on paper, has a substantial impact from a legal and economic view, is it even possible to sue for the transmission of a disease? Will this Act truly be effective in reducing the number of COVID-19 related cases? Will this Act benefit Georgia as a whole or are there other factors that such as increasing the likelihood of COVID-19 cases that give reason to avoid legislation such as this?

This Comment first analyzes an overview of the Georgia COVID-19 Business Safety Act. Part II analyzes prior Georgia case law relevant to COVID-19 related claims. Part III discusses the legislative history to the Georgia COVID-19 Business Safety Act’s codification. Part IV outlines the Georgia COVID-19 Business Safety Act itself and discusses key components within the Act. Part V focuses on what other jurisdictions are implementing and how the Georgia COVID-19 Business Safety Act is similar and/or different. Part VI explores the prior rights that certain businesses already and the oft notion of discrimination claims related to COVID-19. Lastly, Part VII, is a discussion on what types of impacts the Georgia COVID-19 Business Safety Act will have, whether positive, negative, or both, and how the Act may be amended in the future to provide further protection.