On Monday, September 14, 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 606, which provides civil immunity to businesses, healthcare facilities, schools, individuals, and other entities. In passing the bill, the Ohio General Assembly made certain specific findings, including that “lawsuits related to the COVID-19 health emergency numbering in the thousands are being filed across the country. Ohio business owners, small and large, as they begin to re-open their businesses are unsure about what tort liability they may face.”
H.B. 606 has three key moving parts. First, businesses, healthcare facilities, and individuals are immune from lawsuits wholly or partially based on the cause of action that “injury, death, or loss to person or property is caused by the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of, MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, or SARS-CoV-2, or any mutation thereof.” The only exception to this is reckless conduct and intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct that causes COVID-19 exposure. In that case, immunity does not apply and a plaintiff may sue.
Second, the bill provides that government orders, recommendations, and guidelines shall not be construed to create a duty of care or create the basis of a cause of action against anyone. Evidence of such orders is inadmissible as evidence. Third, even if a business or other entity is not immune from COVID-19 related liability (i.e. there is a showing of willful or wanton misconduct), plaintiffs may not band together and bring a class action lawsuit.
Ultimately, this bill provides key protections for businesses and other entities operating in the age of COVID-19. The effects of the virus are still to be determined. Circumstances and recommendations related to the virus often change. H.B. 606 gives businesses and other entities flexibility in navigating the pandemic. It may also provide encouragement to continue operation without fear of liability for COVID-19 exposure that may be outside their control. To download or read a copy of the bill, please click here.
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