Tennessee joined at least 10 other states in broadly limiting liability lawsuits related to Covid-19 exposure, under legislation Gov. Bill Lee signed into law.
The new law sets up legal hurdles for anyone filing a lawsuit over exposure to the virus, broadly protecting businesses, health-care providers, nonprofits, and others including schools and churches. For a lawsuit to avoid dismissal, the plaintiff must show the defendant’s actions amounted to gross negligence or willful misconduct and provide a signed statement from a doctor attesting that they believe the plaintiff’s injury or sickness resulted from the defendant’s actions.
The Republican governor, in a livestreamed signing statement Monday, described the new law as “limited liability protection.” The state legislature passed the measure, HB 8001 / SB 8002, in a special session last week.
“Limited liability protection means that your hard-working small business can’t be targeted with illegitimate claims around Covid-19, and it also means we can confidently remain on track in getting our schools back open and our kids back in the classroom,” Lee said.
Liability protections have been a high priority since the start of the pandemic for business groups such as the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, which advocated for the measure.
Efforts by U.S. Senate GOP leadership, including Sen.
In the meantime, state laws similar to the one Lee signed have been enacted in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. Additional states have enacted liability shields via executive order or narrower liability protections covering health-care providers and suppliers of personal protective equipment.