Governor John Bel Edwards has signed three measures passed during the recently ended sessions of the Louisiana Legislature that shield businesses, individuals, and government bodies from civil liability for COVID-19 exposure. In combination, these new acts will make it extremely difficult for anyone to recover damages for exposure to COVID-19, even if that exposure results in death or serious injury.
Act No. 336
The broadest of the three bills, Act No. 336, sharply limits the ability of persons claiming injury from exposure to COVID-19 to recover damages from a private business or government body or from the host, producer or promoter of a trade show, convention or similar event. Recovery of damages is allowed only if
- the defendant failed to substantially comply with applicable COVID-19 procedures established by the public agency governing those operations, and
- the death or injury was caused by the defendant’s “gross negligence of reckless misconduct.”
Gross negligence has been defined by the courts as the “want of even slight care and diligence” or the “entire absence of care.” Proving gross negligence is difficult, and Act No. 336 will make successful suits for COVID-19 exposure in the course of business or government operations or from attendance at a convention, trade show, or other large event quite rare. The act is retroactive to March 11, 2020, the date when Governor Edwards first proclaimed COVID-19 to be a public health emergency in Louisiana.
Act No. 305 and Act No. 303
The other two bills are narrower in scope but have much the same purpose and effect. Act No. 305 shields restaurant owners, operators, employees, contractors, and agents from liability for COVID-19 exposure if they are in substantial compliance with governmentally established COVID-19 procedures except in cases of gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct. Act No. 303 provides immunity for anyone who renders disaster relief, recovery services or products in any declared state of emergency (not just the COVID-19 emergency) in coordination with government authorities except in the event of gross negligence or willful misconduct. Both of these acts, like Act No. 336, are retroactively effective to March 11, 2020.