Earlier this week a bill was introduced in the Ohio Senate to address liability protections for employers during this time. This legislation, known as Senate Bill 308, is being sponsored by State Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima). OIA is part of a group of several associations that are supporting this bill.
S.B. 308 consists of two concepts. The first concept deals with the variety of potential medical claims that could arise from the COVID-19 outbreak. The legislation seeks to provide qualified civil immunity to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, physicians, nurses and hospitals during a declared disaster.
The goal of the second portion of the bill is to grant qualified civil immunity to service providers during a government-declared disaster like the one we are facing right now. In the bill, services are defined as lodging, sheltering, groceries, pharmaceutical products, fuel products, other products, retail merchandise, manufacturing, care, religious or other nonprofit services. Specifically, the bill provides that a service provider is not liable in damages to any person in a civil action for injury, death, or loss to person or property resulting from, or related to, the person’s actual or alleged exposure to an illness in the course of or through that provider’s provision of services.
Under the bill, immunity is not provided if there is clear and convincing evidence that the service provider’s act or omission is intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct.
If passed, this legislation will apply to all future declared disasters – in other words, this is not a temporary measure that will just apply to the current COVID situation. Furthermore, the legislation would be retroactive to the date Ohio (or the federal government) declared a disaster and would apply for 180 days after the disaster declaration ends.
One point of clarity regarding this legislation is that restaurants are not specifically named in bill. While there was no intent to exclude them, we are seeking clarity on whether they will fall under the bill as it is currently drafted or if the legislation will need to be amended to ensure they are covered.
Senator Huffman provided sponsor testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. It is anticipated that the bill will receive another hearing next week, as the Senate is looking to expedite the process to pass this legislation. OIA will be providing written testimony in support of S.B. 308.
The Ohio House is also pursuing civil immunity legislation. With both the House and Senate interested in pursuing this issue, we are hopeful that legislation providing immunity will come to fruition soon given the specter of potential lawsuits that so many businesses may face as Ohio re-opens.
If you have any questions, please contact Carolyn Mangas at firstname.lastname@example.org.