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Ohio HB 606 Grants Immunity from COVID-19 Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly enacted Am. Sub. H.B. 606 to help Ohio reopen its economy without the fear that businesses, employers and schools would be sued for COVID-19 liability.

Governor Mike DeWine signed the bill into law on September 14, 2020 to take effect December 16, 2020 but certain provisions take effect with the onset of the health crisis. The law grants immunity for acts, omissions, conduct, decisions or compliance from the date of the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, declaring a state of emergency due to COVID-19.

Immunity protects more than health workers

The law provides immunity for an individual, school, for-profit business, nonprofit business, religious or governmental entity, from a civil suit seeking damages for injury, death or loss to person or property, unless it is established that the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of, COVID-19 was by reckless conduct or intentional, willful or wanton misconduct. The law also provides qualified civil immunity for health care and emergency services during the COVID-19 emergency.

Law negates duties for liability purposes

The law also was adopted to deal with the fact that health care and other guidance regarding the spread of COVID-19 has been frequently changing. The legislation provides that a government order, recommendation or guideline does not create any new legal duties for tort liability purposes. Further, such governmental directives are presumed to be irrelevant to the issue of existence of a duty or breach. There is also a presumption that any such government directive is inadmissible as evidence to establish proof of a duty or breach of a duty in tort actions.

Resources

Am Sub HB 606

Analysis of Sub HB 606

Complaint tracker by state and by type of case – updated frequently: https://www.huntonak.com/en/covid-19-tracker.html

State Safe Harbor/Civil Immunity Legislative Tracker by the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers:  https://www.ciab.com/download/24825/