The B.C. Government has issued an extraordinary order, effective March 31, 2020, which limits certain COVID-19 related liability for those who are providing the essential services enumerated in the order (the “Order”).

The Order, issued by the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General for British Columbia, gives essential service providers immunity from damages resulting “directly or indirectly, from an individual being or likely being infected with or exposed to SARS-CoV-2 as a result of the person’s operating or providing an essential service”.

The essential service provider must, however, have been or reasonably believed they were compliant with all “emergency and public health guidance” to be shielded by this limitation of liability. The Order defines “emergency and public health guidance”, which includes orders made under the Emergency Program Act, as well as instructions and guidelines issued by the various entities authorized to do so. Note, however, the limitation of liability is not available if the person was grossly negligent.

For insurers and insureds alike, while the scope and protection afforded by the Order will very likely be tested in Court, the limitation of liability provided by the Order should provide some relief for potential liability exposures related to COVID-19.

The Order will be in effect until the end of the state of emergency, declared March 18, 2020. In the meantime, essential service providers and their insurers alike are well advised to be vigilant about compliance with the emergency and public health guidance required to qualify for the Order’s protection.

This is an extraordinary Order in unprecedented and uncharted times. B.C. essential services providers and insurers who need further advice about the legal implications of the Order should not hesitate to contact us.

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