Residential estates that are reopening their amenities amid improving public health conditions will gain immunity from COVID-19 under legislation that passes through the New Jersey Legislature.
New Jersey has lifted most of the COVID-19 restrictions as COVID-19 cases decline in the state and more people are receiving vaccines. State legislators previously approved immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits for healthcare providers and healthcare professionals, but legislation to protect businesses from such liability has begun to gain traction.
In mid-June, a New Jersey Assembly committee introduced a bill that would protect public associations and similar organizations from lawsuits related to the spread of COVID-19, except in cases of “crime, actual fraud, malicious intent, gross negligence, recklessness, etc. “. or willful misconduct. ” The actions of the Assembly’s Committee on Development and Community Affairs clearly indicate the approval of a number of amendments to an almost identical bill passed by the State Senate.
In early June, the State Senate unanimously approved a bill according to which “any illness, injury, death, or other damage arising from or associated with exposure to or transmission of COVID-19 in the planned real estate. the development of real estate should not give rise to any reason for a claim. ” The Senate version stipulated that immunity would not apply to “acts or omissions constituting a crime, actual fraud, actual malice, gross negligence, recklessness or willful misconduct.”
By unanimously approving changes to the Senate bill, Assembly committee members responded to industry advocates who lobbied for the law to allay fears that reopening of clubs, playgrounds and pools could spike the number of COVID-19-related damages claims. Industry observers note that insurance coverage for such claims is usually not available, and litigation is likely to result in bankruptcy for many of New Jersey’s public associations, which are mostly non-profit corporations run by residents on a voluntary basis.
Committee members indicated that in order to apply immunity, warning signs must be installed at the entrance to public areas. In addition, immunity could not affect the claims of a potential employee for compensation.
Legislation has not yet been adopted. As amended by the New Jersey Assembly Committee, the bill expires on January 1, 2022.
Jackson Lewis attorneys are closely monitoring legal requirements and recommendations for updates and changes.