COVID-19 Update: How We are Serving and Protecting Our Clients.

Articles Tagged with COVID-19

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I hope many of you read my last blog post “Whoever Wants To Serve on a Civil Jury Trial During a Pandemic Raise Your Hand.”    I received some wonderful comments about it, which led me to want to add a bit more to my thoughts on the subject and, hence, this is Part Two of that blog post.  I want to add to the list of why it would not be a good thing to start back up civil jury trials right now when only a small percentage of the Georgia population has been vaccinated. That reason is that Covid-19, without dispute, has disproportionately affected African Americans and people of color (BIPOC) than other citizens. Even the CDC admits this.  The CDC states:

“There is increasing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. [2], [3], [4], [5], [6] Inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty and healthcare access, affecting these groups are interrelated and influence a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.[1] To achieve health equity, barriers must be removed so that everyone has a fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible.”

And yesterday (February 16, 2021) Georgia tied its highest reported daily deaths of 180 from Covid-19, so that hospitalizations may be going down but the death rate is not.

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During the on-going global pandemic many states have adopted additional liability protections for the healthcare industry. Governors in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan have all signed executive orders codifying additional protections. In Georgia, Governor Kemp has signed a number of executive orders that provide different levels of legal immunity for those working to help with the state’s response to the public health emergency. Georgia’s most notable executive order regarding liability protections, was signed into action by the governor on April 14th.

Governor Kemp’s April 14th executive order offered nearly all healthcare workers and facilities the same protections as “auxiliary emergency management workers,” pursuant to O.C.G.A 38-3-35. This code offers sweeping protections against liability during a state of emergency. It states that the parties outlined cannot be held liable for death, injury, or damage to property, except in cases of willful misconduct, gross negligence, or bad faith. The specific designations of who is considered an “auxiliary emergency management worker,” are outlined in O.C.G.A. Codes, 31-7-1(4)(A), 31-7-1(4)(C)-(G) and 31-7-1(5). Based on these codes all active hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory care facilities, surgical centers, testing lab facilities, birthing centers, imaging centers, or public health centers are protected. These protections went into effect upon the governor’s signature on April 14th and will be in place until the public health state of emergency ends. 

Even with executive orders in place to shield the healthcare industry from liability, Georgia lawmakers continued to work toward constructing additional protections. The Georgia house of representatives introduced House Bill 167, which offered increased protections for all Covid-19 related cases, and sought to make them permanent. This specific bill bounced between the Georgia house and senate, until many of the key considerations were absorbed into Senate Bill 359. On the final day of the legislative session SB 359 was adopted, superseding the governor’s April 14th executive order. The bill currently awaits the governor’s signature to be passed into law. Given the governor’s record, the signing of the bill should be considered a formality. 

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The global pandemic has caused many state legal systems to declare a judicial state of emergency. The state of Georgia is currently under state of emergency protocols that are set to last through August 11, 2020.  When jury trials will restart in Georgia is any one’s guess. I just received a new Order from the Chief Judge of the Northern District of Georgia, Hon. Thomas Thrash, dated July 10, 2020, extending the Federal Judicial Order through August 30, 2020. In his Order, Chief Judge Thrash stated:

Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health reflects that the average number

of new COVID-19 cases per day in the State of Georgia has increased and remains higher

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Friends:

To say we are experiencing unprecedented times with the global pandemic of Coronavirus-COVID-19 would be a massive understatement. I hope you and your family are well, staying safe and healthy and weathering this storm. I am continuing working on all of my cases to the maximum extent I can at my home. With remote work capability, super high-speed internet and my case management system “in the Cloud,” I can work on any case from any location. I want to let you know how our Georgia Civil and Criminal Justice Systems are adapting to this season we find ourselves in and keep you up to date on all things legal in Georgia right now.

First, the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Harold Melton has issued a Statewide Judicial Emergency Order through 11:59 a.m April 13, 2020.  I believe Chief Justice Melton has shown great leadership with the issuance of this Order and through it, is doing the Court’s part in not spreading the virus in our courtrooms and alleviating much anxiety among litigants and lawyers.

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