Monday, May the 4th, Governor Cooper signed into law funding and policy changes related to North Carolina and coronavirus relief. One of the policy provisions related to a Limited Business Immunity for “essential” businesses. All construction trades are deemed “essential” businesses and contractors should take note of this.
See the new Section 66-460 of the North Carolina General Statutes, which reads in part as follows:
“Limited Business Immunity”
§ 66-460. Essential businesses; emergency response entities; liability limitation.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law and subject to G.S. 66-461 [which covers acts after the COVID-19 executive order], the following entities shall have immunity from civil liability:
(1) An essential business that provides goods or services in this State with respect to claims from any customer or employee for any injuries or death alleged to have been caused as a result of the customer or employee contracting COVID-19 while doing business with or while employed by the essential business.
(2) An emergency response entity with respect to claims from any customer, user, or consumer for any injuries or death alleged to have been caused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or while doing business with the emergency response entity.
(b) The immunity from civil liability provided in this section shall not apply if the injuries or death were caused by an act or omission of the essential business or emergency response entity constituting gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. This section does not preclude an employee of an essential business or emergency response entity from seeking an appropriate remedy under Chapter 97 of the General Statues for any injuries or death alleged to have been caused as a result of the employee contracting COVID-19 while employed by the essential business or emergency response entity.
A reading of this new law would mean that construction trades have liability immunity from customers or employees if they contract COVID-19 while on a project site working for the construction business. The act does say that there is no immunity from someone who was injured because of gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. What constitutes gross negligence or reckless misconduct? Is it the failure of an employer to provide a mask to workers, or the failure to make sure that employees are working more than 6 feet away from the next employee or laborer? And, how can a laborer or employee prove that they contracted COVID-19 on a project site when going to the drugstore or grocery is risky at best?
Many, many issues are just waiting to be litigated and sorted out. Be careful!
With attorneys licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, Anderson Jones can help you and your business navigate this law or any other construction or business-related legal issue. Contact our legal team at (919) 277-2541 or by email for more information.