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UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

On Monday, September 14, as expected, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 606 into law. It will take effect on Sunday, December 13, 2020.

September 9 - The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Importantly, the law explicitly states that public health or other governmental orders related to COVID-19 do not create any new legal duties of care for the purposes of tort liability and cannot be used as evidence of a breach of any duty of care. 

With this new law, the Ohio General Assembly is recognizing the difficulty businesses face in complying with frequently changing public health orders and CDC recommendations. Additionally, the legislature wants to avoid legal precedents that could subject business and premises owners to liability to members of the public for exposure to airborne viruses, bacteria and germs.   

The lawsuit immunity granted by H.B. 606 is broad. It applies to individuals, corporations, partnerships, associations, health care providers, health care workers, schools, non-profits, governmental entities, religious entities, trusts and estates. It will be short lived, however. The immunity would only be granted to claims arising from March 9, 2020, the date of the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-01D through September 30, 2021. Governor DeWine is expected to sign the bill, which would then take effect in 90 days.

As mentioned in our June 2, 2020 client alert, H.B. 606 previously created a rebuttable presumption that first responders and healthcare workers were eligible for workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19. Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606 no longer contains this presumption. Therefore, COVID-19 is generally not a compensable workers’ compensation illness in Ohio except in the most exceptional circumstances.

For additional information, please contact Adam D. Fuller, adfuller@bmdllc.com or 330.374.6737, or any member of the L+E or Health Law Team at BMD.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.

FCC Adds $198 Million to Strengthen Telehealth for Rural Healthcare Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has added an additional $198 million in funding to its Rural Health Care Program. These funds will be used to increase broadband services and telecommunications to bolster telehealth/telemedicine services for rural healthcare providers. Funding for rural healthcare providers was initially capped at $605 million in 2020, but the added funds will now allow the FCC to provide over $800 million to eligible providers.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity: Optimism for the Construction Industry

Looking for good news? If so, you are not alone. Aside from the collective mental, physical and emotional human toll imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, entire sectors of the economy have been ravaged, and old, familiar ways of doing business have been disrupted. Although deemed essential, the construction industry has not been immune to interruption and uncertainty during these unprecedented times. Amid new health and safety concerns, coupled with financial uncertainty, progress on projects has slowed, and the start dates for a number of new projects slated to begin in 2020 have been deferred. However, resilience has always been a trademark of contractors, subcontractors and other industry professionals. Reports indicate that while the construction industry lost more than one million jobs February through April, at least 600,000 of those jobs had been gained back by the end of June.

Yard Sign Do’s and Don’ts: How to Avoid Legal Challenges to Municipal Sign Codes this Election Season

As the nation heads into the tail end of the 2020 general election, municipalities will inevitably face challenges as they seek to regulate the seasonal proliferation of yard signs on residential property. While the matter may seem trifling, a seemingly benign yet content-based sign ordinance can result in significant legal exposure for municipalities that have not heeded recent Supreme Court decisions on content neutrality.

Time to Update Your HIPAA Compliance Plan for Telehealth Policies and Procedures

The delivery of healthcare in this country may be forever changed following the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing services through telehealth technologies initially allowed providers to connect with patients in a safe and socially distant manner and helped keep vital hospital beds free for COVID-19 care. Now, while still a safe, socially distant option, telehealth allows patients to access healthcare services in an efficient manner, decreases the likelihood of cancellations, and expands access to services that do not require an in-person encounter (i.e., surgery, procedure, or test). Telehealth is now widely reimbursed by both federal and commercial payors and more provider types are able to provide telehealth services within their licensed scope of practice.