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Critical COVID lawsuit immunity for Ohio businesses

Sep

16

September 16 , 2020 | Posted by Cassady Schiller CPAs & Advisors |

Critical COVID lawsuit immunity for Ohio businesses

On September 2, the Ohio Legislature passed critical legislation – House Bill 606 – that provides civil immunity for businesses and health care entities for actions taken during the Coronavirus pandemic. Ohio Governor DeWine signed this legislation on Monday, September 14.

This legislation will become law 90 days from Monday, the 14th, but it will apply retroactively from the date of the state of emergency from COVID-19, Executive Order 2020-01D issued on March 9, and extends through September 30, 2021.

This new law will provide qualified civil immunity related to claimed injury, death or loss tied to exposure to or transmission of COVID-19 to “persons,” which includes individuals, corporations, business trusts, estates, trusts, partnerships, associations, schools, government entities, religious entities or a “state institution of higher education.”

Examples of protected actions:

  • Health care services provided as a result of and in response to COVID that cause injury, death or loss allegedly relating to the provision, withholding or withdrawal of those services.
  • Injury, death or loss allegedly resulting because a health care worker was unable to treat a person for specified reasons.
  • Civil actions claiming damages for injury, death or loss to person or property if the action is based in whole or part that the injury, death or loss is caused by exposure to or the transmission or contraction of COVID. For example, if an employee, customer or patient claimed they were exposed to, contracted or were otherwise injured at a specific business or facility.

No immunity is granted in cases involving reckless or intentional acts.

The bill had been delayed in part because of a last-minute addition of poison pill language just before the Ohio House’s summer break. At the request of those in the business community, the Ohio Senate removed the troublesome amendment, which would have defined COVID-19 for workers’ compensation purposes as an occupational disease for certain workers. This would have shifted the burden to the employer to prove that the worker did not get the injury at work and would have set a dangerous precedent.

Please reach out to your legal counsel or legal advisor to understand the implications of this legislation to your business.