Ohio Small Businesses Seeking Protections From Unmerited COVID-19 Lawsuits

Date: August 04, 2020

Ohio’s small business owners are still feeling the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The economic challenges faced by so many is reflected in the number of Ohio businesses that sought and accepted Paycheck Protection Loans (PPP) as well as the volume of individuals that filed for and were granted unemployment compensation benefits.  The Ohio General Assembly took steps like extending deadlines for licensure renewals and business filings as well as mutualizing unemployment claims to not directly impact employers’ experience ratings.  However, the long-term effects of this pandemic will likely be felt for years.  Most businesses have reopened in some capacity and are working to bring back customers and employees.  A critical element to helping make an economic rebound is providing business owners with certainty they will not face a meritless lawsuit related to COVID.

NFIB in Ohio recently conducted a survey of our members on a host of COVID related issues.  Over 70 percent of our members indicated fear of a lawsuit!  NFIB has been a leader in advocating for liability protections for Ohio businesses.  It is unreasonable to expect employers to prevent the spread of a virus they cannot see.  We have supported legislation that provides appropriate protections to businesses who are not acting in a reckless manner or with intentional or willful or wanton misconduct.  This ensures that businesses that are taking measures to protect their employees and customers do not face a flood of lawsuits. 

Votes have been taken in both legislative chambers on two separate bills that address this issue.  Both bills are now pending before the Ohio House of Representatives.  Unfortunately, the Ohio House is not set to return to session until September.  We cannot leave businesses with this uncertainty.  We need action now.  We encourage you to contact your state representative and ask for immediate action on this critical issue.  Passing liability protection will give businesses more confidence as they continue to provide necessary goods, services and products and help boost Ohio’s economy. 

Coverage in The Columbus Dispatch had this, “How can we expect small business owners to be subjected to unchecked litigation surrounding a virus they can’t prevent,” NFIB legislative director Chris Ferruso said in a statement. https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200701/dewine-to-veto-bill-to-lower-fines-for-violating-health-orders

“A recent survey of National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) members in Ohio indicates nearly 70% are concerned about liability claim increases,” said Roger Geiger, NFIB’s Ohio Executive Director in a opinion piece in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2020/07/struggling-ohio-small-businesses-need-protection-from-covid-19-lawsuits-roger-r-geiger.html

He concluded the opinion piece with this, “The Ohio Senate has now passed a bill, Substitute House Bill 606, solely focusing on COVID-19 liability protection. Small business owners need the Ohio House of Representatives to return promptly to the Statehouse and concur on this pro-small-business legislation.”

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