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Ohio House Passes Revised Bill To Limit Coronavirus Lawsuits

A sign on face mask requirements at Sierra Trading Post in Easton.
Darrin McDonald
A sign on face mask requirements at Sierra Trading Post in Easton.

The Ohio House voted Tuesday to approve a revised bill that would shield first responders, businesses and schools from coronavirus-related lawsuits from patients, customers or students. 

State Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville) said the bill helps law enforcement, medical professionals and schools, but also smaller businesses like restaurants that are following coronavirus safety guidelines.

“It’s a shot in the arm that gives positive reinforcement to responsible behavior," Carfagna said.

However, Democrats including state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) said the Senate stripped out language they wanted to grant quick workers compensation benefits for people who get COVID-19 on the job.

“In the midst of a pandemic we should be doing all we can to keep people safe, not lowering the bar in terms of how we do our business," Crossman said after the session.

Earlier in the day, the House voted unanimously to reject changes to the bill made by the Ohio Senate, sending the legislation to a conference committee. The conference committee report then passed the House a few hours later, 62-30, with strong Democratic opposition.
Four Democrats voted for the bill: Reps. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park), John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) and Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton).

It must also pass the Ohio Senate before heading to the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine, who says he supports the idea.

State Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland) calls her proposal a “good Samaritan bill." She argues it would protect responsible businesses, entities and workers from "frivolous" lawsuits, over anything from following state cleanliness guidelines to making life-and-death decisions on who gets medical supplies.

“If you're reckless or if you do something intentionally, you aren't covered. It's a very low standard, but it's only for COVID and it's only for protecting the people who are making the quick decisions,” Grendell said

Grendell, who thinks businesses and schools should all be open, noted there was little opponent testimony and only a handful of no votes.

“We had two opponents that were from nursing homes saying that it let everybody have free reign. And no, it doesn't. It's only for COVID and they’re not protected if they're reckless or if they do something intentionally to harm somebody with COVID,” she said.