Critical COVID Lawsuit Immunity Awaits DeWine’s Signature

This week, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 606,which would provide civil immunity for businesses and healthcare entities for actions taken during this COVID-19 pandemic. Governor DeWine is expected to sign the bill soon.  It will then become law, 90 days after his signature, and will apply retroactively from the date of the State of Emergency order, issued on March 9, 2020.  It will extend through September 30, 2021.

The Ohio civil immunity bill provides qualified civil immunity related to claimed injury, death or loss tied to exposure to or transmission of COVID-19 to “persons.” “Persons” includes individuals, corporations, business trusts, estates, trusts, partnerships, associations, schools, government entities, religious entities or a “state institution of higher education.”

Examples of protected actions include:

  • Health care services provided as a result of and in response to COVID that cause injury, death or loss allegedly relating to the provision, withholding or withdrawal of those services.
  • Injury, death or loss allegedly resulting because a healthcare worker was unable to treat a person for specified reasons.
  • Civil actions claiming damages for injury, death or loss to person or property, if the action is based in whole or part that the injury, death or loss is caused by exposure to or the transmission or contraction of COVID. For example, if an employee, customer or patient claimed they were exposed to, contracted or were otherwise injured at a specific business or facility.

No immunity will be granted in cases which involve reckless or intentional acts.

The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants (OSCPA) lobbied heavily for this bill.  The fear was, without this law, Ohio would experience a significant number of lawsuits filed by employees, customers, patients…basically anyone who could claim harm because a business, healthcare entity or other operation was a source of COVID-19 exposure of contraction.