Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act

  • Author | Ross V. Smith, J.D.
  • 9/1/2020 4:30 pm

The Tennessee General Assembly recently passed the Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act, which Gov. Bill Lee signed on Aug. 17, 2020. While much of the Act relates to liability protection for private business, the Act also applies to local governments, and affords cities and other governmental entities added protection from lawsuits related to COVID-19. The Act affords protection to PE Partners’ members by adding provisions to the Governmental Tort Liability Act, which is the statutory scheme governing most tort claims against Tennessee governmental entities and employees. Specifically, the Act provides the following protections: 

1.    The Act adds subsection (10) to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-205 and provides that “Immunity from suit of all governmental entities is removed for injury proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of any employee within the scope of his employment except if the injury arises out of . . . or [is] in connection with any loss, damage, injury, or death arising from COVID-19, as defined in § 29-34-802(a), unless the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the loss, damage, injury, or death was proximately caused by an act or omission by the entity or its employees constituting gross negligence.” 

2.    The Act amends Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-310 and provides that “no claim may be brought against an employee or judgment entered against an employee for any loss, damage, injury, or death arising from COVID-19, as defined in § 29-34-802(a), and proximately caused by an act or omission of the employee within the scope of the employee's employment for which the governmental entity is immune, unless the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the loss, damage, injury, or death was caused by an act or omission that was willful, malicious, criminal, or performed for personal financial gain.” 

3.    Lastly, the Act expressly states that it does not (a) create a cause of action; (b) eliminate a required element of any existing cause of action; (c) affect workers’ compensation claims; or (d) amend, repeal, alter, or affect any immunity or limitation of liability available under current law or contract.