LIABILITY PROTECTION BILL
PASSED BY NJ LEGISLATURE…
SOON ON TO THE GOVERNOR TO SIGN INTO LAW!
The improbable journey of this bill (A4979/S3584) has resulted in its passage by the NJ Assembly and will be sent to Governor Murphy for him to sign into law once the Senate votes to concur next week. It is our hope that he will do so shortly thereafter. As previously reported, two weeks ago the NJ Senate unanimously passed this bill which provides protection to common interest communities from COVID19 related illness claims. During debate on the bill in the Assembly last week amendments were made to the bill at the behest of the Governor’s Office and the Assembly leadership. The bill as amended was passed by the Assembly unanimously yesterday, and the Senate will vote on Wednesday to accept those amendments in a process called “concurrence”. The bill, which will then go on the Governor’s desk for his signature, reads as follows:
1. a. A planned real estate development shall be immune from civil liability for damages arising from, or related to, an exposure to, or transmission of, COVID-19 on the premises of the planned real estate development, so long as the planned real estate development has prominently displayed at the entrance of any communal space shared by the planned real estate development's residents and their guests, such as pools, gyms, and clubhouses, a sign stating the following warning:
"ANY PERSON ENTERING THE PREMISES WAIVES ALL CIVIL LIABILITY AGAINST THE PLANNED REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT FOR DAMAGES ARISING FROM, OR RELATED TO, AN EXPOSURE TO, OR TRANSMISSION OF, COVID-19 ON THE PREMISES, EXCEPT FOR ACTS OR OMISSIONS CONSTITUTING A CRIME, ACTUAL FRAUD, ACTUAL MALICE, GROSS NEGLIGENCE, RECKLESSNESS, OR WILLFUL MISCONDUCT."
b. The immunity provided pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall not apply to acts or omissions constituting a crime, actual fraud, actual malice, gross negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct.
c. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or modify any claim for relief under the workers' compensation law, R.S.34:15-1 et seq.
d. As used in this section:
"COVID-19" means the coronavirus disease 2019, as announced by the World Health Organization on February 11, 2020, and first identified in Wuhan, China.
"Planned real estate development" means the same as that term is defined in section 3 of P.L.1977, c.419 (C.45:22A-23).
2. This act shall take effect immediately and shall expire on the first day of calendar year 2022.
It is important to note the new requirement of a sign to be posted with the noted language, and that this immunity protection takes effect the day the Governor signs the bill into law and expires on January 1, 2022. While we would have preferred there be no expiration date for this protection, we believe 6 months of immunity is better than no immunity at all. It is our hope that the next 6 months will see a continued increase in the number of people who have been vaccinated, and the continued decrease in the number of infections and hospitalizations from the virus. This would further reduce the relative risk of anyone being infected with the virus while using Association amenities and thereby reduce the risk of lawsuits against New Jersey’s common interest communities seeking damages for such infections.
It should be noted that of the several bills pending in the NJ Legislature from various groups seeking immunity from civil liability for COVID19 related damages over the past 16 months, only this bill (and one protecting frontline healthcare workers) were made law. This is due in large part to the overwhelming grassroots support of many who live and work in CICs in New Jersey who contacted their legislators and the Governor encouraging passage of this bill. Thanks to all of you who did so!
We will report back to you as soon as we hear from the Governor. Stay tuned