Recognizing that the best ways to avoid COVID-19 change frequently and that Ohio business owners are unsure about what tort liability they may face, the Ohio General Assembly enacted H.B 606. Governor Mike DeWine signed it into law on September 14, 2020. The law takes effect in 90 days and applies to acts, omissions, conduct, decisions, or compliance from the date of the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, declaring a state of emergency due to COVID-19, through September 30, 2021.
The law provides immunity for an individual, school, for-profit or nonprofit business, religious or governmental entity, from a COVID-19 civil action for damages for injury, death, or loss to person or property, unless it is established that the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the virus was by reckless conduct or intentional, willful or wanton misconduct. The law also provides qualified civil immunity for health care and emergency services during the COVID-19 emergency.
The legislation provides that a government order, recommendation, or guideline does not create any new legal duties for purposes of tort liability. Further, such orders and recommendations are presumed to be irrelevant to the issue of existence of a duty or breach. There is also a presumption that any such government order, recommendation, or guideline is inadmissible as evidence to establish proof of a duty or breach of a duty in tort actions.
The new law aims to help Ohio reopen the economy without the fear that businesses, employers and schools would be subject to COVID-19 lawsuits. You can read the legislation as well as Bill Analysis by clicking here.
Gretchen Koehler Mote, Esq.,
Director of Loss Prevention