June 29, 2021
Client Alert: Bill Providing Limited Immunity To Common Interest Communities Passed By NJ Assembly... Awaits Senate Concurrence and Governor's Signature
A bill (A4979/S3584) that would provide limited immunity from COVID-19 related civil claims has been passed by the New Jersey Assembly and will be sent to Governor Murphy for him to sign into law once the Senate votes to concur. This should all occur this week.
The bill was championed by the Community Associations Institute’s Legislative Action Committee-NJ (chaired by Hill Wallack partner George Greatrex). The Governor is expected to sign the bill once he receives it. Three weeks ago the NJ Senate unanimously passed this bill, then during debate in the Assembly two amendments were made at the behest of the Governor’s Office and the Assembly leadership. The bill as amended 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 the bill as initially introduced did not contain an expiration date, the addition of that date was critical to its passage. It is hoped 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 further reduce the risk of lawsuits against New Jersey’s common interest communities seeking damages for such infections.
It is equally important to note that it is necessary for common interest communities to continue to follow CDC and NJ Department of Health recommendations in order to promote the safety of their members and to be eligible for the immunity protection from COVID-19 claims this bill provides.
We will report back to you as soon as we learn when the Governor has taken action on the bill.
If you have questions about this or any other issues with your community association, please contact one of our community association attorneys.
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