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What the COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act Means for You

June 23, 2020

Reynolds signs COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act into law, limiting premises liability for businesses and operatorsOn Thursday, June 18, 2020, Governor Reynolds signed into law the COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act. The Act, which is retroactive to January 1, 2020, limits who and on what grounds an individual can bring an action based on exposure to COVID-19. The Act also limits the medical expenses recoverable in all personal injury actions, and the evidence about medical expense damages that may be presented. Who Can Bring an Action for COVID-19 Exposure?In order for a claimant to be eligible to bring an action to begin with, the claimant must:Have a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, ANDThe COVID-19-related illness must have led to hospitalization or death.Other instances of exposure, such as when someone experiences symptoms but does not seek a diagnosis, or a diagnosis where the viral load is not sufficient to result in severe illness requiring hospitalization, are not actionable. What Would Trigger Premises Liability?Business owners and those in control of premises would be liable in specific circumstances where a COVID-19 exposure at the premises results in a positive diagnosis and hospitalization or death. In order for liability to attach, the individual or business in control of the premises must have either:Recklessly disregarded an unnecessary risk of exposure;Exposed others to COVID-19 through an act of malice; orIntentionally exposed others to COVID-19.The new law also shields from liability those that have substantially complied or whose actions were consistent with guidance from state or federal government entities or public health authorities. For example, if your back-to-business plan or event was consistent with CDC guidance at the time, you would not be liable for any COVID-19 exposure that may have occurred there.For more information about the COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act, including limitations on medical expense damages, liability limitations for health care providers and health care equipment manufactures, visit the Iowa Legislature Website.

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