Gov. McMaster signs business liability protection measure into law

Jobs & Economy
June 25, 2021

PPI’s policy content manager Lawson Mansell is quoted in this article from The Center Square.

(The Center Square) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster held a ceremonial signing on Thursday for S. 147, the South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act.

The bill provides protection for businesses, government agencies and health care facilities against COVID-related claims if they are following public health rules.

“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,” Gov. Henry McMaster said. “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.”

Palmetto Promise, a conservative think tank, had pushed for the legislation, noting that North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee all had similar legislation in place. The state’s manufacturers were also concerned about lawsuit risk. Already last June, Sara Hazzard, president and CEO of the SC Manufacturers Alliance, had pointed toward 2,300 COVID-related lawsuits across the U.S. and 19 in South Carolina.

“We are pleased to see the South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act signed into law,” Hazzard said. “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.”

Businesses then maintain their immunity unless it can be clearly found that the “business caused an injury or damage from grossly negligent, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct.”

“We believe that if a business has made good faith efforts in line with state and federal rules to protect their customers and associates from COVID-19, it should not be punished for damages from someone who might have been exposed,” said Lawson Mansell, Palmetto Promise’s policy content manager. “We are encouraged by this victory for common sense in South Carolina, and the many Mom and Pop businesses it protects.”

The immunity runs from March 13, 2020, to Dec. 3, 2021, which is 180 days after the state’s final state of emergency.

“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, South Carolina Director for the National Foundation for Independent Business. “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.”