As Georgia eases COVID-19 restrictions, “non-critical” businesses may now reopen with “minimum business operations” as long as they follow 21 social distancing and sanitation rules.  The Executive Order does not require businesses to reopen, but gives them the ability to do so if they choose.

As long as new COVID cases and deaths continue in Georgia, business should weigh the risks of resuming operations and be careful to observe consistent safety and protection measures as they reopen.  With data changing on a weekly basis, it’s hard to know what to expect in the future.  In the midst of uncertainty, COVID-19 lawsuits are now being filed which allege businesses knew about the virus and did not do enough to prevent spread (to customers or employees).  Many of these cases are likely seeking to take advantage of the crisis.  Even if a business prevails, these cases present burdens for businesses that have already suffered from closures.  Legislators are discussing potential laws to shield businesses from COVID-19 related liability, but businesses should not count on such legislation to pass.  And even then, businesses should be prepared to show what steps they followed to protect the safety of their employees and customers.

While insurance may provide coverage for some anticipated claims or losses, businesses should seek advice in reviewing the terms of their policies (particularly any exclusions) for potential coverage for COVID-19 claims and losses, such as commercial liability, workers compensation, and Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policies. Businesses should be aware of potential limitations and notice requirements and take necessary steps to notify carriers of claims.  As an example of potential hurdles, on March 17, 2020, the Georgia Insurance Commissioner issued a Bulletin concerning business interruption insurance and COVID-19.  He noted standard business interruption policies typically exclude viruses as an insured peril unless added by endorsement and pointed to the development of new endorsement forms relating to COVID-19.  On May 8, a Cobb County dentist filed a federal class action suit against an insurer alleging wrongful denial of lost business claims due to the insurer’s position there was no physical loss. This is a fluid and changing situation, and it is unknown how the insurance market will respond. Businesses should be aware of their potential coverage and seek assistance in pursuing recovery of their losses related to COVID-19.

Please let us know if we can help protect your business against these potential risks. Contact us today!

21 Social Distancing and Sanitation Guidelines

Bulleting from Georgia Insurance Commissioner on Business Interruption Insurance and COVID-19