General Assembly Passes Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act in Special Session

On Monday, August 3, Governor Bill Lee issued a proclamation calling for the General Assembly to meet in special session which began last Monday, August 10. The call outlined three specific focuses which included liability protections for businesses, schools, hospitals, and other entities from frivolous lawsuits associated with the contraction of or exposure to COVID-19. This proposal narrowly failed in the final minutes of the regular session, but fortunately, it prevailed in the special session.

This new law is entitled the “Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act,” and it limits liability relating to loss, damage, injury, or death from coronavirus. Under the law, an individual or legal entity will not be liable for loss, damage, injury, or death that arises from COVID-19 unless the a plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the person caused the injury by an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful misconduct. At the time of filing a lawsuit, the law further requires the following: a verified complaint with specific facts that a jury could reasonably conclude that the injury was caused by gross negligence or willful misconduct; and a certificate of good faith stating that the plaintiff has a signed, written expert medical opinion that the injury was caused by an act or omission of the defendant. These requirements provide protection from frivolous lawsuits while not protecting businesses who ignore or outright defy guidance from local, state, and federal medical experts.

This law should prevent the vast majority of frivolous lawsuits from being filed providing more confidence to business owners as they reopen their doors. It will become effective as soon as the Governor signs it into law, and the protections will be in place for all claims that allege an injury through June 30, 2022. The Chamber is grateful to the Governor and the General Assembly for the passage of this law, and it is another example of Tennessee’s business-friendly environment around public policy.

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