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Georgia law protects churches from COVID-19 liability

ATLANTA (BP) — To protect businesses, including churches, from claims and lawsuits related to COVID-19, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act, which became effective Aug. 5.

In order for an entity, defined by the bill to include “religious and educational organizations,” to avoid liability, a sign must be posted “at the point of entry” that must read:

“Warning: Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death of an individual entering these premises if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.”

The signage must be written in at least one-inch Arial font, and the warning should stand out from any other text.

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“First, the act states that no entity will be liable for damages in an action involving COVID‑19 unless the claimant proves that the entity’s actions amounted to ‘gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm,’” Tom Duvall, Georgia Baptist Mission Board general counsel, explained.

“This requires a higher degree of proof for a claimant to hold an entity liable for a COVID‑19 claim. Prior to the Act a claimant only had to prove simple negligence. The Act requires a claimant to prove the higher standard of gross negligence or willful misconduct.”

This signage makes every person who enters the marked premises assume the risks for the “transmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure to COVID-10,” Duvall said.

Mike Griffin, Georgia Baptist public affairs representative, said the act is a way of protecting churches. The Georgia Baptist Mission Board still advises churches to follow guidelines of the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health relating to COVID‑19.

“Even with the protections of this act, a church should always meet the acceptable standard of care for those attending church and church events,” Griffin said, adding: “The main purpose of this act is to provide some reasonable legal protection from liability where someone makes a claim against an entity related to COVID-19.

“The posting of this information along with maintaining proper social distancing and sanitation will help in communicating to the community just how important the church sees public safety during these very difficult and trying times.”

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