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COVID Lawsuit Immunity Bill Passes Ohio House Mostly Without Democratic Votes

State lawmakers have sent on to Gov. Mike DeWine a bill to shield first responders, businesses and schools from COVID-19 related lawsuits. The bill had passed the House overwhelmingly in May, but this time Democrats had serious concerns with how the Senate changed it.

The bill had passed the House in May with little opposition. The Senate passed it in June, but changed some language, so the House had to agree with the changes before it went on to Gov. Mike DeWine. A conference committee was convened after the House rejected the changes, and within a few hours, there was a compromise.

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.

But Democrats including Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) said the Senate stripped out language they wanted to grant quick workers comp 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 in an interview after session.

Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester), the lone House Democrat on the conference committee, also recommended a "no" vote.

Sponsoring Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Geauga County) called it a "good Samaritan bill", which she said will protect those entities from what she called frivolous lawsuits. But she said it only shields those that are following state cleanliness guidelines and wouldn't help those who are reckless or intentionally negligent. Crossman said he disagrees, saying it doesn't keep workers, students and other safe and that "it discourages best practices".

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).

The bill goes on to Gov. Mike DeWine, who has hinted he’ll sign it.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau

Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.