Liability, health concerns for business owners as Georgia moves to reopen
Channel 2 Action News has fielded a lot of questions about who is responsible if someone gets sick after going into a business that opens up amid the coronavirus pandemic
Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Nicole Carr talked to business owners and consumers who are worried about potential lawsuits, as legal experts cite potential challenges for both when it comes to consent and proving negligence. At the same time federal and state authorities say they’d consider immunity measures tied to civil liability.
Gov. Kemp faces continued criticism from the White House for plans to re-open businesses like salons, theaters and bowling alleys, giving some 20,000 business owners across the state the option to do so along guidelines starting Friday.Content Continues BelowW
For business owners like Mimi Johnson, Kemp’s decision to allow businesses to reopen is dangerous.
“For the government to leave it all up to the person, I think is catastrophic,” Johnson said. “If we were at a plateau now, guess what it’s going to be Saturday? It’s like starting all over again.”
Johnson runs makeup studio The Glamatory, which is now closed. Johnson said she doesn’t see the state guidelines for reopening a reasonable option for her industry right now, and she doesn’t know how they’d be enforced.
Part of the problem is access to what the sanitation supplies that cosmetologists would need to operate.
“Where are these supplies coming from?” Johnson asked. “I can’t find hand sanitizer anywhere. So that’s just one thing that’s needed. The gloves. The masks. The hand sanitizers. I even saw face shields. Where am I gonna get a face shield?”
In Fulton County, Ryan Wilson’s social club The Gathering Spot is eligible to reopen under state social distancing guidelines. He said the science isn’t there to welcome any of its 3,000 members back to actual building. They’re sticking to virtual services.
“It’s fundamental failure in leadership,” Wilson said of the re-opening plan. “I use that intentionally and in strong language, but I believe it, because if we don’t speak out strongly against these set of decisions and encourage business owners to make this hard choice, we run the risk of this going on longer, which I don’t think we can really afford from an economic perspective.”
Like most business owners, Johnson and Wilson have thought about whether someone could get sick in their business, and what responsibility they’d have for making the wrong move and the wrong time.