- Jun 17, 2020
Legal Update by Attorney Alison Stewart
On June 18, 2020, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law a piece of legislation relating to premises liability immunity for COVID-19 exposure, known as Senate File 2338. The Iowa House had previously passed this legislation.
The legislation originally came through the legislature as a Medical Malpractice liability bill, but it has since been amended to include language pertaining to premises liability of Iowa businesses, schools, churches, government buildings, health care facilities, and more. The definition of premises contained in the legislation is broad and inclusive. For a COVID-19 related claim to qualify for a civil action, the COVID-19 diagnosis must result in hospitalization or death; the claim involves an allegation that the party in control of the premises had intent to cause harm; or the act claimed involves actual malice (knowing their actions would cause an infection or behaving with reckless disregard for the same). Some additional protections are included for health care providers and COVID-19 related product manufacturers.
In short, the legislation would provide immunity for Iowa businesses, etc. when it comes to COVID-19 related exposure claims brought by members of the public who are patronizing those businesses. In order to fall under the protection offered, Iowa businesses must follow the written guidance provided by CDC, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Office of the Governor, and any state agency, including the Department of Public Health.
The bill would retroactively apply to January 1, 2020. The legislation does not address claims for workers’ compensation brought against employers by employees for COVID-19 related exposure claims.
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