Alabama has prioritized the reopening of businesses as quickly and as thoroughly as possible after shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers have acted on the assumption that it is in the best interest of employees and of the owners of businesses of all sizes if businesses can operate with as few restrictions as possible. If customers have not jumped at the opportunity to dine in restaurants or shop in malls it might be out of an abundance of caution about exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19Their hesitation might also be because the economic repercussions of the pandemic have resulted in consumers having less disposable income. (It is also possible that, while stuck at home, they have learned to cook so well that their favorite restaurants can no longer measure up.) Business owners, however, have a whole other set of concerns related to reopening; being exposed to the virus is far from the worst-case scenario. If they reopen, they could face lawsuits from customers who believe that their COVID-19 infection was the result of exposure at the place of business. They could also be overwhelmed by workers’ compensation claims from infected employees. Meanwhile, some businesses that waited to reopen have found that their business interruption insurance refused to cover them when they needed it the most. Alabama’s virus shield law, enacted in February 2021, can prevent some of these problems, but for others, you need an Alabama business law attorney.
How Alabama’s Virus Shield Law Protects Businesses from Liability
In February 2021, Gov. Kay Ivey signed Senate Bill 30 into law, making Alabama one of the first states to enact a virus shield law. The law protects businesses from liability in negligence lawsuits by business invitees who tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting the business. In fact, it covers not only businesses, but also educational institutions, government offices, houses of worship, and healthcare providers. It is still possible, however, for an infected customer or employee to sue the business if its representatives engaged in gross negligence or intentional misconduct. (For example, a customer might have grounds for a lawsuit if one of your employees, who had recently tested positive for COVID-19, intentionally coughed on the customer.)
As of May 2021, 26 states have virus liability shield laws of some sort, while eight others have proposed bills to create them; the states that do not have these laws are those where the Democratic Party holds a solid majority among elected officials. The purpose of these laws is not only to make it easier for businesses to reopen but also to encourage them to comply with safety regulations when they do. If a business did not meet the safety standards set by the CDC for reopening, an infected customer could have a basis for a lawsuit against the business.
Contact Us Today for Professional Help
An Alabama business & corporate litigation attorney can help you reopen your business safely and deal with legal issues that arise when you reopen. Contact Cloud Willis & Ellis for a consultation on your case.