On September 14, 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the “Good Samaritan Expansion Bill” which grants immunity to businesses, individuals, and health care providers from civil lawsuits over the transmission of Covid-19. This immunity is provided unless the actions of those individuals or entities are reckless, willful, wanton, or intentional.
Section 2 of the Act pertains to businesses. It provides, “[n]o 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 [Covid-19].”
The immunity applies to businesses, non-profits, churches, schools, and government bodies. The immunity is retroactive from March 9, 2020, and lasts through September 30, 2021.
Reckless conduct is defined to include conduct that is taken with heedless indifference to the consequences and a disregard for the substantial and unjustifiable risk that the person’s conduct is likely to cause an exposure to, or a transmission, or contraction of Covid-19. The law also provides that a government order, recommendation, or guideline, cannot be construed to create a new duty of care to be imposed on a person. A presumption exists that any such government order, recommendation, or guideline is not admissible as evidence that a duty of care, new cause of action, or substantive legal right has been established.
Despite this protection with regard to the inadmissibility into evidence of government guidelines, it is still advisable to follow them. Governments can penalize companies that do not follow the requirements. Also, following government guidelines and industry standards may be useful as a way of demonstrating that the actions of a business were not reckless.