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New bill protects employers against certain coronavirus-related claims

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Gov. Henry McMaster has signed a pro-business bill providing legal immunity to businesses, state agencies and medical facilities that incurred coronavirus-related claims while following public health guidelines.

The governor was joined by members of the General Assembly and state business leaders June 24 as he signed bill S. 147, the South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act, according to a news release.

McMaster acknowledged the efforts of frontline business owners and medical leaders who had to continuously adapt to ever-changing safety precautions.

"As they protected us, it is now time we return the favor and protect them from frivolous lawsuits brought on by COVID-19,” McMaster said in a statement. “The COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act carries on our rich tradition of common sense, pro-business legislation — which companies from around the world have come to recognize — bringing more jobs and investment to South Carolina." 

The bill offers immunity to businesses and employers until it can be proven “by clear and convincing evidence that the business caused an injury or damage from grossly negligent, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct,” the release said.

Medical providers also will retain immunity from claims until a majority comes forward or evidence is presented that the provider caused damage from neglect, recklessness or intentional misconduct.

Ben Homeyer, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said that bill 147 is especially important to the state’s small businesses.

“South Carolina's small businesses are tough and determined, and they did everything they could to keep the doors open and protect the welfare of their customers and employees during the pandemic, but owners are worried that trial lawyers will try to exploit the pandemic for financial gain," he said. "The cost of defending itself against even one unwarranted claim can be enough to put a small business out of business.” 

Reach Teri Errico Griffis at 843-849-3144.

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