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

Client Alert

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.


House Bill 249: Key Updates to Involuntary Hospitalization Law for Mental Health Providers

House Bill 249 (HB 249) proposes changes to Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Sections 5122.01 and 5122.10 to expand the conditions under which a person with a mental illness can be involuntarily hospitalized.

Starting an Advanced Practice Provider Practice

Advanced practice providers (APPs), which includes non-physician providers such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurse anesthetists, commonly start their own healthcare practices. Practices may provide, for example, service offerings such as primary care, anesthesiology, mental health, and aesthetics (medical spas). However, there are a number of considerations and steps that must be taken for APPs to compliantly function independently.

FTC Increases Targeting of Companies Lacking Cyber Protection

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released a comprehensive cybersecurity report outlining key findings and recommendations based on emerging threats, trends in data breaches, and strategies for businesses to enhance their cybersecurity posture observed over the last year.

New Federal Medical Conscience Rule and Its Implications

The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights issued a Final Rule to clarify protections for healthcare providers who refuse services based on religious or moral beliefs. This includes protection against discrimination for refusing procedures like assisted suicide or abortion. The OCR can receive complaints, conduct investigations, and enforce these protections. Entities are encouraged to update policies accordingly and display a model notice provided by the OCR.

Marijuana Reclassification and APRN/PA Prescribing

Marijuana is expected to be reclassified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from a Schedule I controlled substance to a Schedule III controlled substance as a result of efforts by the Biden administration.