Bill protects the blameless from virus-related lawsuits
It is human nature to want to blame someone or something for a tragedy in one’s life. It is the nature of some attorneys to seek to capitalize on that by filing lawsuits.
COVID-19 has claimed more than 4,200 lives in Ohio. The toll will grow. As it does, so does the likelihood of lawsuits filed by survivors of those killed by the disease. They will seek to punish those they blame for the deaths.
In addition, some who caught the virus but survived it may consider lawsuits for pain and suffering, loss of income, etc.
When intentional misconduct is to blame, victims indeed should be entitled to relief from the courts. For example, a business that forces employees in non-essential jobs to continue working alongside someone known to be infected might be held liable.
Or, when unacceptable recklessness by another person results in someone contracting COVID-19, a lawsuit may be appropriate. It is up to judges and juries to define recklessness, of course.
Most of us have heard of lawsuits filed and sometimes won without any intentional wrongdoing or recklessness being involved, however.
It is such action Ohio legislators and Gov. Mike DeWine are seeking to forestall with enactment of House Bill 606. DeWine signed the measure into law on Monday.
HB 606 protects health care workers, educators, businesses and others against lawsuits over COVID-19 unless reckless behavior or outright misconduct can be proven.
It would be nice to be able to believe no one would file a frivolous lawsuit in an attempt to cash in on the pandemic. That would be unrealistic. Reportedly, thousands of lawsuits related to COVID-19 have been filed already in the United States.
Protecting store owners who do their best to safeguard employees and customers, ambulance crews who must deal with COVID-19 patients the best they know how, educators who want only the best for children and others who may be targeted by such lawsuits is the right thing to do.
Good for Ohio lawmakers and Gov. DeWine. Now, they and leaders from the other 49 states should pressure Congress to provide similar protection nationally — because Ohio laws do not govern what happens in federal courtrooms.