DeWine Signs H.B. 606, Ensures Civil Immunity During Pandemic

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 606 into law Monday, ensuring civil immunity to individuals, schools, health care providers, businesses and other entities from lawsuits arising from exposure, transmission, or contraction of COVID-19.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Diane Grendell, R-76, protects against such lawsuits provided entities were not showing reckless, intentional, or willful misconduct, according to the governor’s office.

It also shields health care providers from liability in tort actions regarding the care and services provided during the pandemic unless they were acting recklessly or displaying intentional misconduct.

During a special signing event filmed from his home in Cedarville, DeWine commented on the importance of being able to do two things at one: keep people safe while working to bring the economy back. He says H.B. 606 “is very, very consistent with these two goals.

“Some of the people that are at the front lines of both our battle to keep us safe and our battle to bring our businesses back, jobs back, are represented by the groups that really have lobbied for this,” DeWine said. “Local governments, schools, business in general, health care providers, all have been involved is asking the legislature to act.”

“Ohio businesses stepped up when asked to help with this pandemic crisis and we are pleased that the Senate and House, along with the governor, have acted to help protect jobs and our economy,” Andrew E. Doehrel, president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

While businesses are accustomed to abiding by certain standards to keep customers and employees safe, said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, what they’re not used to, however, is “doing it on the fly during a pandemic.” Early on in the pandemic, business owners were concerned because they weren’t sure which regulations were the best to follow and they wanted some security and “predictability in the law,” he said.

“House Bill 606 provides that predictability and security,” Husted said. “And if the businesses act responsibly, they will be protected under Ohio law.”

Husted commented on how the bill will protect educators as well.

“In a time of uncertainty, Ohio’s educational leaders are working tirelessly so that our children can learn in safe, supportive environments,” said Kirk Hamilton, executive director, Ohio’s Superintendent Association. “H.B. 606 provides additional protections for Ohio’s schools as they seek to return students to the classroom and to as much normalcy as possible.”

Groups supporting the bill included AICUO, CCAO, Inter-University Council of Ohio, NFIB, Ohio Association of Community Colleges, Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Ohio Metro Chambers Coalition, Ohio Municipal League, Ohio Restaurant Association, Ohio School Boards Association, Ohio State Medical Association, Ohio’s Superintendent Association and Ohio Township Association.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.