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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.

Banking & Cannabis: The Next Frontier Webinar

On Tuesday, September 21st, BMD’s own Banking and Cannabis Partner, Stephen Lenn, hosted a star-studded cast of panelists in a webinar titled Banking & Cannabis: Cannabis Lending, The Next Frontier. The webinar, which had to suspend registrations when hitting a maximum cap of 500, aimed to explore issues related to cannabis and banking, with a particular emphasis on lending. With the sponsorship and support of the Bankers Associations of Arizona, Colorado, Ohio and Utah, Steve was able to recruit an elite group of bankers, bank regulators, cannabis industry players, and cannabis regulators, who took the topic head on. The discussion kicked off with an opening from the keynote speaker, VP of Congressional Affairs for the American Bankers Association, Tanner Daniel.

Is Your Bonus System Creating Wage and Hour Violations? A Hidden Impact of the Labor Shortages

As employers struggle with attracting and retaining talent, many have turned to incentives such as Signing Bonuses and Retention Bonuses. In doing so, employers may be inadvertently exposing themselves to overtime law violations. Employers with non-exempt employees know that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires an overtime premium to non-exempt for work in excess of 40 hours per week. However, all too often, employers miscalculate the “regular rate” of pay, which is used for calculating the “overtime rate.” The miscalculation is becoming more prevalent in today’s market when employers fail to include supplemental compensation, such as certain Signing Bonuses and Retention Bonuses into the regular rate of pay. An example: A non-exempt employee is hired at a rate of $20 per hour, and also receives a retention bonus of $1,200 after working for 12 weeks. In her 11th week of work, employee works 50 hours. In her 14th week of work, employee works 50 hours. What is her paycheck in week 11? What is her paycheck in week 14?

No Surprises Act – Notice Requirements

On July 1, 2021, the Biden Administration passed an interim final rule: Part 1 of the “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing Act,” in an attempt to curb excessive costs patients are required to pay in relation to surprise billing. The rule is set to take affect January 1, 2022, and will only affect those who are enrolled in insurance via their employers, as federal healthcare programs already prohibit this type of billing.[1]

El Contrato Escrito: La Herramienta Predilecta

No existe mejor herramienta a una disputa contractual que un documento firmado por las partes en el cual se expongan las obligaciones y acuerdos entre éstas.

New State Budget Institutes Licensure Requirement for Ohio’s Hospitals

On July 1, 2021, Governor Mike DeWine signed Ohio’s final budget codified at Ohio Revised Code 3722.01 et seq., which includes a new licensing requirement for Ohio’s hospitals. For years, Ohio was the only state in the country that did not license its hospitals. This approach will now be replaced with new, detailed requirements that will require careful review and compliance. Here are some of the highlights concerning these new changes: