Representative Diane Grendell (R-District 76) recently introduced HB 606, a bill to make temporary changes related to qualified civil immunity for health care and emergency services provided during a government-declared disaster or emergency and for exposure to or transmission or contraction of certain coronaviruses. To expand the definition of “governmental function” regarding political subdivision tort liability in relation to emergency declarations. To expand state immunity to include actions undertaken under a duty during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make CoVID-19 contracted by certain employees an occupational disease under the Workers’ Compensation Law under specific circumstances.

Beth Lear, VP of Government Affairs for ABC of Ohio provided the following testimony in support of the Bill, before the House Civil Justice Committee. An amended version of the Bill passed the House, was introduced in the Senate and subsequently referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it currently remains.

Chair Hambley, Vice Chair Patton, Ranking Member Brown and Representatives,

I am Beth Lear, Vice President of Government Affairs for Ohio’s Associated Builders and Contractors. ABC of Ohio and our members strongly support House Bill 606, which would “Grant immunity to essential workers who transmit COVID-19.”

Our members view liability protections for those whose services were deemed “essential” during the COVID-19 crisis as a crucial and urgentlegislative issue. We have continued to work safely to keep our infrastructure intact and provide vital services to Ohioans. These essential workers have the right to be protected from baseless litigation.

ABC of Ohio provided our member best practices for the construction industry to the Governor’s office to assist with the re-opening plans. Health and safety have always been part of our ethos. In response to COVID-19, we continually update members with coronavirus-related information, including the creation of a website:

Plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, masons, road constructors, general contractors and all other skilled tradesmen, tradeswomen, business owners, suppliers and trainers who have continued to work through the pandemic deserve the civil protections provided in HB 606.

On the national level, ABC joined over two hundred national and state associations, including Chambers of Commerce, manufacturing organizations and agricultural groups to name just a few, in support of similar federal legislation.

Their joint letter stated in part,

“Our associations represent the tens of millions of women and men in America working in essential industries that have been called upon to continue operating to support our nation’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Our member companies are doing their best to serve the public interest, protect our communities and minimize harm to the American people during these uncertain times. Yet because they have remained operational during times of remarkable legal uncertainty, they risk becoming the targets of coronavirus-related lawsuits that will ultimately do nothing to reduce the spread of this disease or address the suffering that Americans have endured because of it. Congress must act to ensure that such misguided litigation does not derail our recovery.”

ABC of Ohio agrees that our State Legislature must act as well, and we applaud your quick and thoughtful response through HB 606.