On August 17, 2020, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act into law. The Act provides expansive protection to individuals and businesses from claims arising from COVID-19 unless there is clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence or willful misconduct. Health care professionals and facilities, businesses, non-profits, religious organizations, public institutions of higher learning, and all other individuals and legal entities are protected from liability under the Act.
The Act takes effect immediately except for COVID-19 claims noticed or filed on or before August 3, 2020. Notably, the Act does not affect workers compensation claims. It also does not create a cause of action, eliminate a required element of any existing cause of action, or amend, appeal, alter or affect any immunity, defense, limitation of liability, or procedure available or required under law or contract.
Because of the high “clear and convincing” standard of proof, businesses and other entities that conform to the Tennessee Pledge and applicable reopening guidelines stand a far better chance of being insulated from liability for claims arising from COVID-19. The Act broadly defines “claims arising from COVID-19” as claims “caused by or resulting from the actual, alleged, or possible exposure to or contraction of COVID-19, or caused by or resulting from services, treatment, or other actions in response to COVID-19,” and include, but are not limited to:
- implementing policies and procedures to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19
- monitoring, collecting, reporting, tracking, tracing, disclosing, or investigating COVID-19 exposure or other COVID-19 related information
- using, designing, manufacturing, providing, donating, or servicing precautionary, diagnostic, collection, or other health equipment or supplies, such as personal protective equipment (PPE)
- closing or partially closing to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19,
- delaying or modifying the schedule or performance of any medical procedure
- providing services or products in response to government appeal or repurposing operations to address an urgent need for PPE, sanitation products, or other products necessary to protect the public
The Act is automatically repealed on July 1, 2022, but will continue to apply to losses, illness, injury or death occurring before that date.