COVID-19 Tort Liability Bills Work Their Way Through the Ohio General Assembly

Although there is much discussion of potential legal immunity from COVID-19 related tort claims among Congressional leaders, states are more likely to take the first steps. The outline for potential liability protection is progressing in the Ohio General Assembly as House Bill 606 and Senate Bill 308 have now been conformed so that substantially similar bills are progressing simultaneously through both houses of the General Assembly. The progress of the bills have garnered support from the leadership of the General Assembly as both Senate President Obhof and Speaker Householder commented that their chambers would prioritize tort liability for businesses reopening during the pandemic. Both bills provide for the following:

  • Civil immunity would be provided for health care providers for withholding or withdrawing health care services, emergency medical services, first-aid treatment, or other emergency professional care during an epidemic, public health emergency or other disaster unless the conduct constitutes willful or wanton conduct.
  • Civil immunity for all businesses against exposure claims from employees or patrons of the business that are based on an injury or death alleged to have been caused by the transmission of a coronavirus infection, unless it established by clear and convincing evidence that the infection was transmitted by reckless or intentional conduct or with willful or wanton misconduct.
  • Civil immunity would be provided to a person who provides services for essential businesses and operations for injury, death or loss that was caused by the transmission of COVID-19 during the period of emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020 unless the person was providing services for essential businesses and operations acts manifestly outside the scope of the person’s responsibilities, with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner.

Whether any legislation will be successfully enacted is unclear. Governor DeWine has not publicly taken a position on the issue.

KMK Law articles and blog posts are intended to bring attention to developments in the law and are not intended as legal advice for any particular client or any particular situation. The laws/regulations and interpretations thereof are evolving and subject to change. Although we will attempt to update articles/blog posts for material changes, the article/post may not reflect changes in laws/regulations or guidance issued after the date the article/post was published. Please consult with counsel of your choice regarding any specific questions you may have.

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