Society priority legislation nearing the finish line

By Greg Saul, Esq., CAE, director of tax policy


As is all too often the case with situations involving health risks or other forms of loss, the filing of civil litigation cases against businesses, including healthcare entities, are on the rise in response to the pandemic. In response, OSCPA has taken a leadership role in protecting Ohio businesses from frivolous lawsuits related to the COVID-19 crisis. We submitted a letter of support for S.B. 308 to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 13 and followed up last week with proponent testimony for H.B. 606 to the House Civil Justice Committee on May 19. Both bills offer qualified civil immunity to businesses providing goods or services during this pandemic emergency period.

Both bills received hearings again this week, along with additional changes offered in substitute versions of the bills.  Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) outlined the changes in the latest version of H.B. 606 before it was favorably reported out of House Civil Justice.  Among the changes: extends qualified civil immunity for all health care providers that respond to the disaster/emergency beginning March 9 through Dec. 31, 2020; removes the immunity exclusion for willful or wanton misconduct for tort actions arising from regulatory requirements on facilities; prevents immunity if the provider’s conduct constitutes “reckless disregard” or “gross negligence”; and modifies the immunity exception to “reckless or intentional conduct or with willful or wanton misconduct of the person against whom the action is brought.”

H.B. 606 passed on the House floor by an 83-9 vote on May 28. 

Moving to S.B. 308, on May 27 Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) explained his proposed substitute version of the bill does the following: applies to lawsuits related to the coronavirus until April 1, 2021; clarifies that immunity also applies to higher education institutions, nonprofits, for-profits, religious institutions, political subdivisions, state agencies and other governmental entities; clarifies health orders that are “highly recommended” do not create a “duty of care” so that entities will largely be immune from tort actions related to guidelines and recommendations; and some permanent law changes are made, such as clarifying the “disaster” and “emergency” definitions.

S.B. 308 is expected to have another hearing next week and H.B. 606 will move to the Senate for further consideration next week.  The goal is to send one of these bills to Governor DeWine for his signature in June.

4 comments

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  1. J D Satink, CPA | Jun 01, 2020

    I created and operated a plastic extrusion business for 25 years. However, due to the pandemic and ohio mandated shutdown, we suddenly stopped receiving orders; and therefore, our cash flow disappeared.  So I advised the landlord that we could not pay the monthly rent, until further notice.

    Within just a few days he started showing up, almost every day, demanding the rent(IN CASH) or he would lock us out by obtaining a lockout notice from the court (Summit County Court of Common Pleas). Then lien our equipment and inventory and effectively put us out of business.

    I do believe he can do this. Summit County Court is corrupt, He has Legal and other friends in the right places(Lawyers, Sheriffs, Local  police dept).  Also Ohio law does not offer legal protection. Besides, we can't afford legal fees($500 to $1000 per hour).

    What is your advice?  Legal Terrorism? Extortion Rental? Any recourse?


  2. Tom | May 28, 2020
    What's next, protection from someone getting flu, food poisoning, allergies?  If one feels it is important enough to re-open and provide ones' product/service to the public, "serve" the public and provide it in a safe, healthy way.  That individual has made Their decision of what is best & right and should enjoy all the rights and responsibilities that go with it without need for any other extra-ordinary protections.   The legal & court systems should already be intelligent enough and have the courage to sort out frivolous actions from those that are not.   Agree with Gail, Everyone take responsibility for your choices.
  3. Barb Benton | May 28, 2020
    Gail:  Unfortunately, it's a reality that lawsuits have already begun to be filed, and ads from law firms seeking COVID-related clients already are out there.  We live in a litigious world.  Bills like this are necessary to give some level of certainty to businesses that stayed open/are now reopening, and to those who have been on the front lines in health care, protection from frivolous lawsuits or lawsuits where the plaintiff did what they could to keep employees and customers safe in these extremely trying circumstances.  No protection would be given to those who caused harm by acting in a reckless, intentional manner.
  4. Gail | May 28, 2020
    So sad that we have come to this point in history where we have to pass a law to protect businesses and their owners from a new virus that sometimes shows no symptoms in those who have contracted the disease.  We have never had to do this for the Swine flu, the H1N1 virus, or other viruses.  Individuals have a choice of where to shop and where to work--take responsibility for your choices!

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