(The Center Square) – The Ohio House signed off on legislation giving businesses, schools and workers liability protections from COVID-19 lawsuits.
House Bill 606, the Good Samaritan Expansion Bill, now goes to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature.
The bill grants civil immunity to individuals, schools, businesses and healthcare providers from lawsuits stemming from the pandemic. For example, healthcare providers would be immune unless their actions constitute “reckless disregard” for a patient’s life or health.
“Months ago when I introduced this legislation, I stated how important this was for our frontline workers that they should not have to worry about lawsuits while helping Ohioans amid the pandemic,” state Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chesterland, said in a news release. “Now this bill is even more vital as the start of the academic year is here and we must ensure teachers and school faculty have the peace of mind they will not be sued as they work hard to safely teach our kids this year as schools reopen.
“House Bill 606 has been described as the single most effective bill in the Ohio House regarding COVID-19,” Grendell added. “Every industry in our state will benefit from this legislation. Giving businesses, schools, and individuals a chance to return to normal while granting them peace of mind is necessary for our continued success.”
However, on the House floor, state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, said, “even a first-year law student would know that this is bad tort law,” and it sends a signal that Ohio lawmakers do not care about the safety of residents across the Buckeye State.
“This bill … (will) only prolong the pain that Ohioans are going to suffer,” Crossman said. “It does not encourage best practices; it actually lowers the bar and encourages worse practices. Negligence law exists for a reason. It encourages bad actors to get out of the marketplace, and it encourages good actors to stay in the marketplace.
“…This bill remains anti-worker, anti-employee, makes our students less safe, makes our teachers less safe, makes our elderly less safe because it exposes them to (the) possibility of worst practices,” Crossman added.
Under the bill, the immunity provision would cover from March 9, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021.
A spokesman for DeWine did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the governor might sign the bill. However, The Buckeye Institute praised lawmakers for passing the measure.
“For months, Ohio businesses, schools, community groups, and medical providers have feared that, despite their best efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, they could be sued by anyone who visited their establishments and subsequently tested positive for the virus,” Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute, said in a statement. “Ohio’s General Assembly took a critical step toward speeding up the state’s economic recovery and protecting responsible businesses and other organizations that are working to keep their students, customers, employees, and patients safe.”
Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square