The Buckeye Institute: COVID-19 Related Lawsuits Threaten Ohio’s EconomyMay 13, 2020
Columbus, OH – On Wednesday, The Buckeye Institute submitted written testimony (see full text below or download a PDF) to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee on the policies in Senate Bill 308, which would provide businesses and workers with immunity from COVID-19 related lawsuits.
As he did in his testimony to the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee, Andrew J. Geisler, a legal fellow with The Buckeye Institute’s Legal Center, applauded policymakers for “ensuring that Ohio businesses taking reasonable precautions against the spread of COVID-19 can begin to reopen without fearing virus-related lawsuits and liability.”
Geisler went on to urge the Committee to define “reasonable conduct” in the COVID-19 context using either the state’s or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for workplace safety as Buckeye recommended in its recent policy memo. “Ohio should provide businesses and individuals clear safety guidelines that give them the confidence to reenter the marketplace without fearing virus-related lawsuits.”
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Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Related Lawsuits
Interested Party Testimony
Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee
Senate Bill 308
Andrew J. Geisler, Legal Fellow
The Buckeye Institute
May 13, 2020
Chairman Eklund, Vice Chair Manning, Ranking Member Thomas, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony regarding Senate Bill 308.
My name is Andrew Geisler and I am a legal fellow at The Buckeye Institute, an independent research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.
Senate Bill 308 ensures that Ohio businesses taking reasonable precautions against the spread of COVID-19 can begin to reopen without fearing virus-related lawsuits and liability. Our recent policy memo Policy Solutions for the Pandemic: Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Related Lawsuits recommended that policymakers immunize businesses and front-line workers from tort liability as long as they take reasonable, anti-virus precautions. Lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits alleging virus exposure will further strain our dormant economy as it moves toward recovery. Many businesses may delay reopening or spend significant resources to take reasonable precautions only to be sued despite their best efforts. Ohio should keep that from happening by adopting a “safe harbor” rule that shields businesses and individuals adhering to recommended health and safety guidelines.
The Buckeye Institute applauds this Committee’s efforts on this important issue. In order to ensure that the legal safe harbor provides adequate protection, the Committee should examine a special tort rule that defines “reasonable conduct” in the COVID-19 context consistent with either the state’s or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for workplace safety. Businesses operating within the prescribed guidelines should be presumed to have taken reasonable precautions as they reopen and may therefore avoid tort liability and expensive litigation defense.
To reopen Ohio safely requires prudent liability shields to help restore a more normal life and awaken the slumbering economy. As Governor DeWine has said, “We can stay safe, we can protect each other, we can protect our most vulnerable and at the same time move our businesses back, get people back to work.” To do that, Ohio should provide businesses and individuals clear safety guidelines that give them the confidence to reenter the marketplace without fearing virus-related lawsuits.
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