On September 14, 2020, Ohio passed and the Governor signed House Bill 606, which provides qualified immunity to healthcare providers and employers who are accused of spreading COVID-19. It will become effective on December 13, 2020 (90 days after signed into law).

Section 1 of the law provides qualified immunity to healthcare providers providing services during the coronavirus pandemic. It applies to actions taken from March 9, 2020 to September 30, 2021. The new law does not apply if the provider’s actions amounted to reckless disregard for the consequences to the patient’s life or health or intentional misconduct.

Section 2 applies to employers and businesses faced with lawsuits from employees and the public, stemming from injury, death, or loss from alleged exposure in the place of business. It applies to lawsuit alleging exposure, transmission, or contraction of COVID-19 in a place of business, unless the business owner’s (or employer’s) actions amounted to reckless conduct or willful misconduct. Reckless conduct is defined as disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk of exposure or transmission of COVID-19.

Government orders, recommendations, and guidelines may not be used to establish the requisite duty of care because, according to the statute, recommendations are often changing and “often not based on well-tested scientific information.” There is no definition of “willful misconduct” in either section of the law.

HB 606 is a temporary law, and it will expire on September 30, 2021.