COVID immunity bill passes Senate; awaits House floor action

Written on Jul 01, 2020

OSCPA staff report

Much needed legislation – H.B. 606 – that seeks to provide qualified civil immunity to Ohio’s healthcare and business sectors was voted out of the Ohio Senate, 23-6 on June 30. If enacted, H.B. 606 will provide businesses and healthcare providers with qualified civil immunity in cases of claimed exposure to or transmission of COVID-19. No immunity is granted in cases involving reckless or intentional acts.

The bill has broad support from OSCPA and the broader business community, health care providers and government entities. Without this law, it is anticipated that, as is starting to occur in other states, Ohio will experience a significant number of lawsuits filed by patients, workers, clients and anyone else who could point to a business, healthcare entity or other operation as the cause for injury, losses or death from COVID-19 despite that entity following the safety requirements in place at the time.

An emergency clause by the same vote count was also passed which would enable it to become effective immediately upon Governor DeWine’s signature. While the goal of proponents and bill sponsors was to have this new law in place by now, before it can get to Gov. DeWine the Ohio House must first agree to Senate changes through a floor vote. If the House doesn’t agree with the Senate changes, the bill will go to a conference committee to see if an agreement can be reached on the final bill that retains the emergency clause. The soonest that will happen is mid-September as currently the Ohio House is scheduled to be in recess until that time.

Of note, at the request of many in the business community the Senate removed a troublesome amendment a that would have defined COVID-19 as an occupational disease for certain workers per workers compensation purposes, meaning the normal approach of a worker needing to prove an injury or illness occurred at the workplace is flipped to the employer needing to prove the worker did not get the injury at work. The Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice, a large tort reform coalition of which OSCPA is a leader, pointed out that currently 84% of COVID workers compensation claims already are being considered work-related, meaning the system is worked as intended and the provision is not needed.

For more information, contact OSCPA’s government relations team.

 

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