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Ohio Law Provides Qualified Immunity Against COVID-19 Lawsuits

On Sept. 14, 2020, Governor DeWine signed into law House Bill 606, providing qualified immunity against COVID-19 lawsuits. In addition to providing protections to health care providers, the law states that no civil action for damages can be brought against any person if the cause of action is based on exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of, COVID-19 and any of its mutations. The only exception to this grant of immunity is where it is established that the exposure or transmission was caused by reckless conduct, intentional misconduct, or willful or wanton misconduct on the part of the person against whom the action is brought.

In addition to the grant of qualified immunity, the law specifically provides that government orders, guidelines, and recommendations do not create a new duty of care, a new cause of action, or a new substantive legal right, and declares that a presumption exists that any such orders, guidelines, and recommendations are inadmissible as evidence of such.

Lastly, the law provides that, if the qualified immunity does not exist, no class action is permitted and that the qualified immunity applies from March 9, 2020 through September 30, 2021.

The General Assembly, in drafting this law, also noted the following findings:

  • lawsuits related to the COVID-19 health emergency numbering in the thousands are being filed across the country;

  • recommendations regarding how best to avoid infection with COVID-19 change frequently, and such recommendations are often not based on well-tested scientific information;

  • businesses and premises owners have not historically been required to keep members of the public from being exposed to airborne viruses, bacteria, and germs;

  • in Ohio, it has been the responsibility of individuals going into public places to avoid exposure to individuals who are sick;

  • nothing in the Ohio Revised Code establishes duties upon businesses and premises owners to ensure that members of the general public will not be exposed to such airborne germs and viruses; and

  • the General Assembly has not delegated to the Executive Branch of Ohio’s government the authority or power to create new legal duties for businesses and premises owners.

Employers with questions are advised to consult with their legal counsel regarding specific questions or concerns. If you have any questions, or need assistance, please feel free to contact Jeremy D. Iosue or Jason T. Hartzell at (216) 651-0451.

This Employment Law Alert may provide an overview of specific federal and/or state laws and regulations. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular situation or individual.

Copyright © 2020 Stefanik Iosue & Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.



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