Gov signs coronavirus liability law

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

With a stroke of the pen this week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, made it much more difficult for people to recover damages who were harmed after contracting coronavirus from a business, nursing home, school or government agency.

Lee, on Monday, touted the legislation as “historic” and argued the law would protect businesses from “frivolous lawsuits,” according to an Associated Press story.

The intent of the bill is to limit liability of “any person” for “loss, damage, injury, or death from coronavirus.”

In order to successfully sue a business, for damages incurred as a result of contracting coronavirus — even if the business is carelessly run and failed to follow recommended guidelines — would require the claimant to prove “by clear and convincing evidence that the person caused the injury by an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful misconduct.”

The claimant would also be required to “file a certificate of good faith stating that the claimant or claimant's counsel has obtained a signed, written expert medical opinion that that the claimant's injury was caused by the alleged act or omission of the defendant. A claimant's failure to comply … will … make the claim subject to dismissal with prejudice.”

In order to prevail in a case against a government agency employee, claimants would have to prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that the employee’s actions were done willfully, maliciously, or were criminal, or “performed for personal financial gain.”

“Under Lee’s leadership, Tennessee was one of the first states to begin reopening in late April after the Republican reluctantly issued a safer-at-home order that forced businesses to close,” according to the AP.

“Lee has since maintained he will not shut down the economy and has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate.”

The act does not affect worker’s compensation claims.

The bill took effect immediately. It will be repealed on July 1, 2022.