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Are You Protected From COVID-19 Lawsuits by Mississippi's New Law?

August 20, 2020

Mississippi’s new law protects some businesses, product manufacturers and health care providers from COVID-19 lawsuits. The immunity offered is broad, but not unlimited. To qualify, you need to meet these standards.

1. You must be a “person” covered under the act.

The act applies to “persons.” This includes:

  • Individuals
  • The state and its political subdivisions, associations and educational entities
  • For-profit and nonprofit entities
  • Religious or charitable organizations
  • Health care providers

The act also covers owners, lessees, occupants or any other person in control of a physical place serving a commercial, residential, educational, religious, governmental, cultural, charitable or health care purpose.

2. You must meet the following criteria by industry.

Businesses

Businesses are immune from civil lawsuits for injuries or death from actual or alleged COVID-19 exposure if the business, in the performance or provision of its functions or services, attempted in good faith to follow the applicable public health guidance available at the time.

Product Manufacturers

Anyone who designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes or donates a “qualified product” in response to COVID-19 is immune from civil lawsuits for injuries or death from actual or alleged COVID-19 exposure caused by the product. “Qualified product” means:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) used to protect the wearer from COVID-19 or its spread
  • Medical devices, equipment and supplies used to treat a person with COVID-19
  • Medications used to treat COVID-19
  • Tests to diagnose or determine immunity to COVID-19 that have been approved by or submitted to the FDA for approval within FDA-prescribed time limits
  • Components of qualified products

Those who handle disinfecting or cleaning supplies or PPE outside their normal course of business are also protected.

Health Care Providers

Health care professionals and facilities are immune from civil lawsuits for injuries or death caused by acts or omissions while providing health care services related to a COVID-19 state of emergency. The immunity applies to “health care services” performed during the state of emergency. “Health care services” means care, treatment, services or procedures to maintain, diagnose or otherwise affect a person’s physical or mental condition.

When are you protected from lawsuits?

The Act Applies Retroactively

If you qualify, you are protected from March 14, 2020, until one year after the COVID-19 state of emergency ends. However, civil liability arising out of acts or omissions or related to an injury that occurred during the act’s operation are subject to the act’s provisions in perpetuity.

Two-Year Statute of Limitations

A person must bring a lawsuit for alleged injury from COVID-19 no later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.

But … no immunity for intentional acts.

The protection provided by the act does not apply where the plaintiff shows, by clear and convincing evidence, that a defendant acted with actual malice or willful, intentional misconduct.

What do you need to do?

  • Regularly monitor COVID-19 public health advice, including federal and state guidance on the state of emergency issued by executive or regulatory agencies.
  • Attempt in good faith to follow all applicable guidance.

Please contact James W. Shelson or any other member of Phelps’ Litigation team if you have questions or need compliance advice and guidance. For more information related to COVID-19, see Phelps’ COVID-19: Client Resource Portal.