On Thursday, July 1, 2021, Governor Murphy signed a COVID-19 liability protection bill and, by doing so, gave community associations some immunity from certain legal claims arising from COVID-19. The law provides that a community association “shall be immune from civil liability for damages arising from, or related to, an exposure to, or transmission of, COVID-19 on the premises” providing the association has prominently displayed a sign “at the entrance of any communal space shared by…residents and their guests, such as pools, gyms, and clubhouses.” The sign must state the following:
“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.”
The new law is not perfect:
- While it is effective immediately as of July 1, it expires on December 31, 2021.
- The protection will not apply until proper signage is posted. Signage must be posted at all entrances to each facility which is open to residents and their guests. Signage must be prominently displayed (think large, bold, and/or colorful). Regularly inspect each sign to ensure it is still posted as required and thoroughly document the existence of such signage.
- There will be no immunity for any “acts or omissions constituting a crime, actual fraud, actual malice, gross negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct.” Boards must keep required and reasonable COVID-19 protocols in place when opening facilities.
- The immunity applies to the association and does not expressly include board members or management.
- It will not apply to limit or modify any claim for relief under the workers’ compensation law. Boards must keep required and reasonable COVID-19 protocols in place for their own staff and their vendors’ personnel.
While the new law may not be perfect, it does offer some protection for associations.
To take advantage of the protection it provides, you must post your signs now.