Letter to Speaker Cupp

August 4, 2020 

The Honorable Robert R. Cupp
Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives
77 S. High Street
Columbus, OH 43215 

RE: Liability Protection 

Dear Speaker Cupp: 

Collectively, our organizations would like to congratulate you on being chosen by your peers to lead the Ohio House of Representatives. Your service to Ohio over the years has been exemplary and we believe that your tenure as Speaker will help restore public trust in the people’s house. 

As such, we write to you on a matter of utmost import–to stress the importance of providing our members with appropriate liability protection from litigation arising from the coronavirus. We are urging the House to address this critical issue as soon as possible since waiting will hamper Ohio’s economic recovery. 

Currently, employers have reasons to hesitate before making the decision to fully reopen due to the unknown risks associated with the virus and the potential legal liability they may face in a lawsuit alleging their actions are the reason someone was exposed to COVID-19. This hesitancy is compounded by the lack of a clear statutory or common law duty since premises owners and businesses have not historically been obligated to protect customers from exposure to airborne viruses. 

Similarly, protecting our health care providers for their essential work during this pandemic is critical to ensuring providers take all steps necessary to adequately respond to this health crisis. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Ohioans cannot afford to have their health care providers inhibited from necessary action due to fear of litigation or liability. We need our health care providers to provide essential care without fear that their actions will result in liability. 

Passing legislation that tackles these issues can serve as the foundation of Ohio’s economic rebound because it will give employers and health care providers more predictability about their legal risks as they operate during a pandemic. Understanding their legal risks will enable employers to bring back more of their workforce sooner and restore their revenues faster since they can take steps to rebuild their business knowing it will not result in a lawsuit. 

Without legislative action, it will be left to the courts to determine if violating a single, often evolving provision of a public health order from the Ohio Department of Health, a local health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is enough to hold an employer financially responsible for a customer’s exposure to the coronavirus. The uncertainty of what a judge may decide is why liability protection legislation is vitally important to restarting our state’s economy.

Enacting such legislation would provide clear guidance to employers and health care providers about their legal obligations during this pandemic that will help give them the confidence necessary to fully reopen and in turn will bolster Ohio’s economic recovery. 

For employers who are struggling, the Ohio House can provide needed relief by reducing the chances a potential coronavirus lawsuit will derail their efforts to reopen following the pandemic. Likewise, Ohio’s small businesses stand to benefit the most from enacting legal protections against coronavirus litigation because these employers often lack dedicated human resource professionals and legal teams who can ensure an employer complies with the numerous government orders that could be used as the basis to bring a lawsuit. 

In closing, our organizations request quick action be taken by the Ohio House to pass liability protection legislation that will help Ohioans get back to work sooner by providing employers the confidence needed to fully reopen and providing health care providers the protections they need as they continue to rise to the occasion in response to the pandemic.

Sincerely,

Elayne Biddlestone, Academy of Medicine of Cleveland & Northern Ohio
Laura Tiberi, American College of Emergency Physicians – Ohio Chapter
Beth Easterday, American Council of Engineering Companies of Ohio
Sherman Joyce, American Tort Reform Association
Bryan Williams, Associated Builders & Contractors of Ohio
Steve Klinker, Associated General Contractors of Ohio
Aaron Baer, Citizens for Community Values
Alex Fischer, Columbus Partnership
Joe Roman, Greater Cleveland Partnership
Bruce E. Johnson, Inter-University Council of Ohio
Kathryn Brod, LeadingAge Ohio
David Blatnik, Manufacturing Policy Alliance
Roger Geiger, NFIB-Ohio
Chris Ferruso, Ohio Alliance of Civil Justice
Thomas D. Stuber, Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers
Joscelyn Greaves, MSN, APRN, Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses 

Jack Hershey, Ohio Association of Community Colleges
Ryan Weible, Ohio Athletic Trainers’ Association
Zach Doran, Ohio Automobile Dealers Association
Michael Adelman, Ohio Bankers League
Kimberly McConville, Ohio Beverage Association
Pat Tiberi, Ohio Business Roundtable
Kevin Schmidt, Ohio Cast Metals Association
Andrew Doehrel, Ohio Chamber of Commerce
Jenn Klein, Ohio Chemistry Technology Council
Mark Mecum, Ohio Children’s Alliance
Angela Meleca, Ohio Citizens for the Arts
Jeremy Simpson, Ohio Community Corrections Association
Chris Runyan, Ohio Contractors Association
Joe Russell, Ohio Council for Home Care & Hospice
Gordon Gough, Ohio Council of Retail Merchants
Cheryl Subler, Ohio County Commissioners Association 

Paul Mercer, Ohio Credit Union League
David Owsiany, Ohio Dental Association
Shannon Sweeny, Ohio Dental Hygienists Association
Adam Sharp, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation
Mike Mathy, Ohio Foot & Ankle Medical Association
Kristin Mullins, Ohio Grocers Association
Pete Van Runkle, Ohio Health Care Association
Michael Abrams, Ohio Hospital Association
Joe Savarise, Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association
Jeff Smith, Ohio Insurance Agents Association
Eric Burkland, Ohio Manufacturers Association
Jay Pascoe, Ohio Mortgage Bankers Association 

Kent Scarrett, Ohio Municipal League
Keith Kerns, Ohio Optometric Association
Matt Harney, Ohio Osteopathic Association
Dan Acton, Ohio Real Estate Investors Association
Scott Williams, Ohio REALTORS
John Barker, Ohio Restaurant Association
Scott Wiley, Ohio Society of CPAs
Jennell C. Vick, Ohio Speech & Hearing Governmental Affairs Coalition
Dr. Brandy Spaulding, Ohio State Chiropractic Association
Todd Baker, Ohio State Medical Association
Tom Balzer, Ohio Trucking Association
James Jarvis, Ohio Vapor Trade Association
Beth Wymer, Ohio Wholesale Marketers Association