On June 18, 2020, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed the COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act that provides business liability protections related to individuals bringing civil actions alleging either exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19.
The act contains a number of important provisions designed to protect businesses that are acting responsibly from an onslaught of lawsuits, while still allowing litigation to proceed against those who would act with reckless disregard or with actual malice and/or the intent to harm.
The new law:
- Requires that individuals bringing suit meet minimum medical conditions, in this case hospitalization or death.
- Provides protections from liability lawsuits to persons in control of a facility unless that person recklessly disregards risks or acts with malice.
- Provides protection from lawsuits if the business was in substantial compliance with federal or state regulations, orders, or guidance. Such guidance and regulations can come from the CDC, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, OSHA, the office of the governor, or other state agencies, including the Iowa Department of Public Health.
- Provides additional provisions limiting the liability of health care providers.
- Provides protection from lawsuits to those involved in providing products like disinfectants and face shields needed to fight the virus unless the person disregarded a substantial or unnecessary risk or acted with malice.
The law is retroactive to January 1, 2020. As the pandemic threat continues, it is important for businesses to understand the risks, follow governmental guidance, and determine the right steps to protect the organization. Documentation of these steps will be key to helping defend against lawsuits.
Source: governor.iowa.gov, cbiaonline.org