Will there be college and high school football in the coming weeks?
One Columbus attorney says those who cancel the seasons won’t be able to pin the blame on trial lawyers.
Brandon Peak, of Butler, Wooten, Peak, is a successful Columbus trial lawyer with extensive courtroom experience.
As the college and high school football seasons approach, Peak says fear of a lawsuit is no reason for Georgia institutions to back down.
“If it’s a safety issue and you don’t want to play any football because of the safety issue with COVID, that’s a legitimate concern,” Peak said. “But in Georgia, at least, there is basically blanket immunity for transmission of COVID 19.”
That immunity comes from a state law passed by the General Assembly back in June. The Georgia COVID-19 Business Safety Act offers immunity for businesses — of which a university and its athletic programs would fall — immunity from most COVID-based litigation. An injured party would have to prove gross negligence, which is determined on a case-by-case basis.
“What I can tell you here with respect to COVID, is if you are trying to do anything, maintaining any type of responsibility whatsoever, you are not going to be liable for gross negligence,” Peak said.
But there is another reason it would be hard for a lawsuit to stick.
“First of all you would never be able to prove — or it would be very difficult to prove — that you contracted the virus from playing football,” Peak said. “As opposed to living in the dorm or going to the food hall or stopping to get gas on your way to the stadium.”
The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association answered such criticism with a statement last week.
“I think the trial bar has been made the scapegoat here when we realized we are living in a pandemic,” Peak said. “We want to provide reasonable protections for businesses. Which is why we have agreed to this legislation. And universities.”
Peak, a graduate of The Citadel and Mercer Law, is a Georgia Bulldogs fan. He said it would be terrible if that happens.
“We need football, I believe from a morale perspective,” he said. “And if the universities decide not to play because they are concerned about the health of the players, that’s a legitimate concern that we could live with. But don’t try and blame it on trial lawyers and contend this is about not getting sued for allowing people in Sanford Stadium because that’s not really what it’s about.”