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COVID-19 Employer Immunity

Last Updated: 9.28.2020 @ 10:10 am

DISCLAIMER: The following information is a guide, not intended to be used as legal advice, and no attorney client relationship is established by any communication through this website.  Because every situation and every workplace is different we ask that you contact us with specific questions. 

Ohio House Bill 606

Signed on September 14, 2020: House Bill 606 (HB606)

HB 606 provides temporary legal immunity from coronavirus-related liability to businesses, health-care workers, and schools. HB 606 will take effect December 13, 2020, however the limited immunity will apply to actions arising between the date of the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-01D, issued March 9, 2020, and September 30, 2021. 

HB 606 provides immunity from tort liability and professional discipline to specified health care providers for services provided during a disaster or emergency that result in injury, death or loss allegedly resulting from the action, omission or decision in the provision, withholding or withdrawal of those services. Further, HB 606 grants immunity when the services follow an executive order or director order. Additionally, HB 606 grants immunity from tort liability and professional discipline when a health care worker was unable to treat a person due to the inability to perform an elective procedure due to an executive, director, or local health department order in relation to an epidemic or pandemic.

The tort immunity specifically excludes from immunity intentional, willful or wanton misconduct or conduct that constitutes a reckless disregard of the consequences. The immunity from professional disciplinary action excludes conduct that constitutes gross negligence. The immunity does not create a new cause of action or substantive legal right against a health care provider or affect the immunities or responsibilities of a health care provider. Further, if the immunity does not apply, no class action can be brought against a health care provider for the conduct undertaken during a disaster or emergency.

HB 606 also generally protects against civil actions for injury, death, or loss to person or property against any person if the cause of action is based wholly or in part due to the exposure or transmission or contraction of various coronaviruses or their mutations. Of note, the definition of “person” in this section includes a school, a for-profit or nonprofit entity, a governmental entity, a religious entity or a state institution of higher education.  However, this immunity does not apply if it is established that the exposure to or the transmission or contraction of any of the viruses or mutations was by reckless conduct, or intentional, willful or wanton misconduct of the person against whom the action is brought. Similar to the provisions regarding health care providers, if the general immunity does not apply, no class action can be brought against any person alleging liability for damages for injury, death, or loss to person or property based on the specified cause of action.

Further, under HB 606 a government order, recommendation or guideline does not create a duty of care on a person that may be enforced in a cause of action or that may create a new cause of action or substantive right against any person regarding the matters in the government order recommendation or guideline.

It should also be noted that prior versions of HB 606 included a presumption for health care workers that contracted COVID-19 as an occupational disease in a workers’ compensation claim.  This provision was removed, so claims for an injury or occupational disease related to virus exposure remain unchanged.

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