Iowa House Commerce Committee Passes COVID-19 Liability Protection Measures
On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the Iowa House Commerce Committee passed a legislative amendment to S.F. 2338. If passed as part of S.F. 2338, the amendment would significantly reduce the potential liability of Iowa businesses related to COVID-19 exposure lawsuits. The following is a summary of the amendment and its potential impact on Iowa businesses.
Limitation on Civil Lawsuits
The amendment bars civil lawsuits against businesses alleging exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19 unless one of the following applies:
- The individual bringing the lawsuit required inpatient hospitalization or died due to COVID-19;
- The lawsuit alleges an act by the business that was intended to cause harm; or
- The lawsuit alleges an act by the business that constitutes actual malice (e.g., personal spite, hatred, ill will).
Limitation on Invitee Liability
The amendment eliminates a business’s liability for civil damages by an individual who was directly or indirectly invited onto the business’s premises and alleges COVID-19 exposure, unless one of the following applies:
- The business recklessly disregards a substantial and unnecessary risk that the individual would be exposed to COVID-19; or
- The business exposes the individual to COVID-19 through an intentional act or an act that constitutes actual malice.
Safe Harbor Compliance
The amendment eliminates a business’s liability for civil damages for any injuries sustained from exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19 if the business’s act or omission that is alleged to have violated a duty of care to the individual was in compliance with formal COVID-19 guidance at the time of the alleged exposure. Such formal guidance includes:
- Federal or state statutes, regulations or orders; or
- Public health guidance.
Health Care Providers
The amendment contains a separate section that details situations where health care providers will not be liable due to certain acts or omissions while providing or arranging health care in support of Iowa’s response to COVID-19.
The amendment would apply retroactively to January 1, 2020.
If passed, the new amendment to S.F. 2338 would ensure COVID-19 lawsuits against businesses are limited to situations where an individual has suffered from certain minimum medical conditions (i.e., hospitalization or death) or when the business has engaged in an intentional or malicious act seeking to cause the individual harm. Additionally, the amendments would permit business owners to mitigate (if not eliminate) civil liability for COVID-19 exposure by following formally issued state and federal guidelines.
A copy of the amendment to S.F. 2338 can be found here. We will continue to monitor the status of S.F. 2338 and will notify you if it passes. If you have any questions, please free to reach out to one of our Corporate & Business attorneys via email or by calling the office at 402.492.9200.
Thu Jun 4, 9:14pm Share