COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster was joined today by members of the General Assembly and business leaders from around the state for a ceremonial bill signing of S.147, the South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act. A pro-business bill that provides legal immunity to businesses, state agencies, and healthcare facilities that reasonably adhered to public health guidelines at the time a coronavirus-related claim arose.
"South Carolina's businesses and medical professionals stood on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic adapting to ever-changing safety measures to protect their employees, customers, and community," said Governor Henry McMaster. "As they protected us, it is now time we return the favor and protect them from frivolous lawsuits brought on by COVID-19. 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 act provides immunity from COVID-19 related lawsuits. Businesses or employers will retain immunity unless it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the business caused an injury or damage from grossly negligent, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct. A medical provider will retain immunity unless it is proven by a preponderance of evidence that the provider caused an injury or damage from grossly negligent, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct.
"We are pleased to see the South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act signed into law," said Sara Hazzard, President and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance. "As South Carolina continues to make great strides in recovering from the economic challenges created by the pandemic, this law provides employers with the confidence and certainty they need."
"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," said Ben Homeyer, State Director for the NFIB. "The cost of defending itself against even one unwarranted claim can be enough to put a small business out of business. That's why Senate Bill 147 matters so much to South Carolina's small businesses."
The immunity covers the start of the declared pandemic on March 13, 2020, and ends on December 3, 2021, 180 days after the final State of Emergency.
Governor McMaster wrote a letter in April to the General Assembly urging them to pass the bill without delay.