On August 24, 2021, House Bill 401 was introduced which creates a cause of action for injuries and occupational diseases arising from COVID-19 vaccines mandated by employers. The bill amends R.C. 4113, which contains miscellaneous labor law provisions, to define employers and employees, and specifically permit employees to sue employers in common pleas court for damages caused by COVID-19 vaccines. Employees have five years from the date of the vaccines to file a claim. The bill also amends R.C. 4123.01 to exclude injuries or disabilities caused by COVID-19 vaccinations from the definition of injury under the workers’ compensation statute.
Because of the recency of the bill’s introduction, it is unclear whether the bill has any chance of becoming a law. Notably, the bill raises constitutional issues as decades of legislation and a constitutional amendment in 1924 established the Ohio workers’ compensation law as the exclusive remedy for injuries and occupational diseases caused by employment. The only exception recognized by Ohio law would be employer intentional torts, which the Ohio Supreme has held are not “injuries” within the meaning of the law because an employer’s intentional conduct does not arise from employment.
At this stage, the introduction of House Bill 401 is merely news. As the bill progresses through the legislative process, we will update this story.