20 Aug North Carolina Farmers And Agricultural Businesses Protected From COVID-19 Lawsuits
Across the United States, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against various businesses engaged in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, food service, real estate, property management, retail, and agriculture, alleging injuries and damages arising from COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Recovery Act (S.L. 2020-3), enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly, contains protections from civil liability for those farmers and businesses engaged in the agricultural industry in North Carolina. The COVID-19 Recovery Act grants farmers and agribusinesses immunity from civil liability for “claims from any customer or employee for any injuries or death alleged to have been caused as a result of the customer or employee contracting COVID-19 while doing business with or while employed by the essential business.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 66-460. This immunity is available to those businesses who are designated as “essential” pursuant to North Carolina Executive Order 121, and include businesses, individuals, sole proprietorships, partnerships, and limited liability companies engaged in “food and beverage manufacturing, production, processing, and cultivation, including farming, livestock … and other production agriculture.”
The immunity granted in the COVID-19 Recovery Act, however, does not cover any injuries or death that would be covered under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, or otherwise caused by gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm.
Farmers and businesses engaged in the agricultural industry, however, should implement policies, procedures, and strategies that avoid any injuries or death arising from exposure to COVID-19, which should mirror—at a minimum—the guidelines and policies adopted by the United States Department of Labor as well as the state and local governments in North Carolina.