Thanks for joining us for the final part of our blog series on potential liability of landlords reopening shopping centers in Ohio. In this part four, we are going to take a look at proposed COVID-19 related legislation that is traveling through the Ohio general assembly.
On September, 2, 2020, the Ohio General Assembly enacted HB Bill 606 and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine now has 10 days to respond. As this bill has yet to be signed into law and may receive further modifications, we urge you to double check the final text that is signed into law or have your counsel do so. If signed as is, this bill would give significant protections to businesses and premises owners in regards to claims brought against them based on consumers contracting COVID-19 at their premises, so long as there is no reckless conduct, intentional misconduct, or willful or wanton misconduct on the part of the business or premises owner. Even if there was such misconduct, the bill would prevent plaintiffs from joining together in a class action. This protection would apply retroactively from the date of the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, through December 31, 2020.
The relevant text of the bill is as follows:
“(A) No civil action for damages for injury, death, or loss to person or property shall be brought against any person if the cause of action on which the civil action is based, in whole or in part, is that the injury, death, or loss to person or property is caused by the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of … [the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)], or any mutation thereof, unless it is established that the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of, any of those viruses or mutations was by reckless conduct or intentional misconduct or willful or wanton misconduct on the part of the person against whom the action is brought.
(B) A government order, recommendation, or guideline shall neither create nor be construed as creating a duty of care upon any person that may be enforced in a cause of action or that may create a new cause of action or substantive legal right against any person with respect to the matters contained in the government order, recommendation, or guideline. A presumption exists that any such government order, recommendation, or guideline is not admissible as evidence that a duty of care, a new cause of action, or a substantive legal right has been established.
(C) If the immunity described in division (A) of this section does not apply, no class action shall be brought against any person alleging liability for damages for injury, death, or loss to person or property on a cause of action specified in that division.”
If this bill becomes law as-is, landlords can breathe a little easier, although the recommendations covered in part three of this blog series would be still valid and relevant for, at a minimum, public relations reasons, and would be advisable to follow to make sure that no court could find you to be acting recklessly or with wanton misconduct.
Thank you for joining us for this series. We appreciate the time you took to read our thoughts on the current situation and hope that this has been helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us!