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Ohio Enacts COVID-19 Immunity Legislation

On Tuesday, September 14th, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed OADA-backed House Bill 606 into law. This legislation, sponsored by Representative Diane Grendell, ensures civil immunity to businesses, individuals, schools, health care providers, and other entities from lawsuits arising from exposure, transmission, or contraction of COVID-19, or any mutation of the virus, as long as they were not showing reckless, intentional, or willful misconduct. 

The immunity coverage is retroactive to March 9, 2020 and continues through September 30, 2021. The law becomes effective in 90 days. 

Key provisions of HB606 for our industry include: 

General immunity

HB606 generally prevents bringing a civil action for injury, death, or loss to person or property against any “person” if the cause of action on which the action is based, in whole or in part, is that the injury, death, or loss is caused by the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of “MERS-CoV,” “SARS-CoV,” or “SARS-CoV-2,” or any mutation thereof.  “Person” is broadly defined to include an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, or association.  The definition also covers schools, government entities, colleges, religious entities, and for-profit and non-profit entities.

Exceptions for reckless, intentional conduct or willful or wanton misconduct

General immunity does not apply if it is established that the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of, any of those viruses or mutations was by “reckless” or intentional conduct or with willful or wanton misconduct of the person against whom the action is brought.   

Government orders do not create a duty of care

Significantly, while Ohio law generally provides that a person owes a duty to exercise ordinary care for customers’ safety, HB606 specifically states that a government order, recommendation, or guideline like those issued during the current pandemic does not create a duty of care. There is also a presumption that any such order, recommendation, or guideline is not admissible as evidence during a lawsuit that a duty of care, a new cause of action, or a substantive legal right has been established. 

Class actions prohibited

Importantly, when the general immunity does not apply, a class action may not be brought against a person alleging liability for damages for injury, death, or loss to person or property on the specified cause of action. 

OADA was actively engaged in supporting this legislation.  Click HERE for a copy of our support letter during debate on the bill in the Ohio House.  We appreciate the efforts of the General Assembly and Governor DeWine recognizing the importance of this legislation to businesses in Ohio. 

For more information, please contact OADA Legal Counsel.  Sara Bruce can be reached at (614) 923-2243 or sbruce@oada.com.  Matt Chacey can be reached at (614) 923-2232 or mchacey@oada.com

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