Senate File 2338 was signed into law on June 18, 2020, went into effect July 1, 2020, and had a retroactive effect date of January 1, 2020. While textual changes may occur between now and the final edition written into the 2021 Iowa Code, the title of this legislation is vividly clear in its purpose: Reopen your business. Known as the “COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act”, Senate File 2338 gives enhanced liability protection as a COVID-19 response.
Enhanced Protections are Provided by the COVID-19 Response and Back-to Business Limited Liability Act
Under the COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act, if one wishes to bring a lawsuit alleging they suffered COVID-19 due to the actions of another, one must first show a medical condition (diagnosis of COVID-19 resulting in inpatient hospitalization or death), that the defendant’s act was intended to cause harm, and it constituted actual malice. If one is exposed to, and contracts, COVID-19 on another’s premises, there is no liability unless the person in control of the premises either recklessly exposes a party to COVID-19; acts with actual malice; or intentionally exposes someone to COVID-19. Any of those factors would allow potential liability.
Health care providers have increased protection when dealing with COVID-19 patients, as long as they are doing so in support of the state’s response to COVID-19 and do not act with reckless or willful misconduct. Those that design, manufacture, label, sell, distribute, or donate cleaning supplies, protective equipment or other products that are used in responding to COVID-19, will have enhanced protection from liability. Additionally, those that fail to give proper instruction or warning, should be protected from the potential consequences of the improper warning. This does not apply, however, should one act recklessly or with actual malice.
Impact to Workers' Compensation Claims
Enhanced protections from liability are available in some instances, however, some areas have not gained this extra protection, workers’ compensation claims – among other areas, are explicitly excluded. While the ink is drying on this legislation, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. The newness of this legislation and the continued rise in cases will likely create litigation which will help with the interpretation of this statute. If you find yourself in a lawsuit related to COVID-19 or believe you have a lawsuit related to COVID-19, you should contact a lawyer who can apply your facts to the law and this new legislation.
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