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Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, has signed into law legislation that protects businesses and others from lawsuits arising from exposure to COVID-19, so long as they do not show intentional misconduct.
The legislation follows similar laws that have been enacted by Georgia, Idaho, Nevada and Tennessee, according to tracking by law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP.
Ohio’s H.B. 606, which was signed into law by Gov. DeWine on Monday, provides civil immunity to businesses as well as schools, health care providers, business and other entities from lawsuits arising from the exposure, transmission or contraction of COVID-19, or any of the virus’ mutation, so long as these entities do not demonstrate reckless, intentional or willful misconduct, according to the legislation.
The legislation states Ohio’s General Assembly is aware that many business owners who are beginning to reopen their businesses are unsure about the tort liability they may face, while recommendations on how best to avoid COVID-19 infection change frequently and are “often not based on well-tested scientific information,” including pronouncements by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The COVID-19 health emergency is new and novel” and the Ohio Supreme Court’s past opinions do not deal with the virus, or duties to protect the public from exposure in public places to airborne germs and viruses, it states.
The law is in effect retroactively from March 9 through Sept. 30, 2021.
Ohio lawmakers have joined New Jersey in introducing a bill that would force insurers to retroactively cover business interruption losses arising from COVID-19.