Ohio Passes Law Shielding Employers from Liability for COVID-19 Related Lawsuits

By: Jim Newberry, Susan Llewellyn Deniker, Nelva J. Smith

Published: September 24, 2020

On September 14, 2020, House Bill 606 was signed into law by Governor DeWine, which provides Ohio employers with legal protections to stem the spread of COVID-19 lawsuits. Under this law, Ohio profit and non-profit private and public and governmental entities, including colleges and universities, will have state law immunity from civil actions brought by customers, employees, or others for damages resulting from injury, death, or loss to person or property related to the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of, the novel coronavirus (MERS or other SARS illness is also covered). The immunity under the law applies unless a plaintiff establishes reckless, intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct.

The law further clarifies that government orders, such as orders from the Ohio Department of Health or citations from Federal OSHA, are presumed inadmissible in court to provide evidence of a duty of care, or for causes of action related to COVID-19.

The law is retroactive to the declared state of emergency in Ohio on March 9, 2020 and is set to expire on September 30, 2021. However, as it was not considered an “emergency” legislation, the law is not effective until December 16, 2020.

Compliance with ever-changing guidance regarding COVID-19 safety measures has made compliance very challenging for institutions of higher education. This legislation, however, provides much-needed legal protections for all Ohio businesses. Please do not hesitate to call the authors with any questions that you may have.

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