By: Tyler S. Lemen
Update: SB 1 was signed into law by Governor Eric Holcomb on February 18, 2021
Protecting businesses from potential COVID-19 liability has been a top priority for Indiana legislators in the 2021 session. On January 4, 2021, Senate Bill 1 was introduced in Indiana’s Senate. After passing in the Senate, the Bill also passed through Indiana’s House of Representatives. SB1 should be signed into law by Governor Holcomb in the coming weeks.
The Bill shields individuals, businesses, and other entities from civil tort liability for damages arising from COVID-19:
- On the premises owned or operated by the person;
- On any premises on which the person or an employee or agent of the person provided property or services to another person; or
- During an activity managed, organized, or sponsored by the person.
The goal of SB1 is to stop customers, workers, or patients from pursuing civil claims for injury or harm caused by or resulting from the actual, alleged, or possible exposure to, or contraction of, COVID-19–not including instances of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. Protection extends to individuals or entities offering services or treatment for COVID-19, and manufacturers or suppliers of COVID-19 protective equipment, medication, or medical devices.
The protections of SB1 are broad and may apply to several different classes of individuals and businesses, including restaurants and supermarkets, hospitals, long term care facilities and out-patient clinics, churches and charitable organizations, and construction project owners and developers.
Consider the following hypotheticals:
- A customer visits a grocery store, restaurant, or other business and contracts, or believes they may have contracted the COVID-19 virus during their visit. Assuming the customer could prove they contracted COVID-19 at the establishment, they might bring a claim against the establishment seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages, or the lasting impact of the illness. SB1 would likely prevent this lawsuit since the customer’s potential COVID-19 exposure occurred on a premise owned or operated by the would-be defendant.
- A patient presents to a hospital emergency department, is admitted to a long-term care facility, or attends a regularly scheduled physical with their physician. While receiving health care or shortly thereafter, the patient develops COVID-19-like symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19. The patient could file suit alleging the healthcare provider’s COVID-19 protocols were inadequate, resulting in the patient’s exposure to the virus. The health care provider is likely protected from liability because the COVID-19 exposure resulted on the premises owned or operated by the would-be defendant. Moreover, if the exposure occurred while the health care provider offered services or treatment for COVID-19, the provider is further protected.
- A church congregant or 5k registrant participates in a nonprofit event and thereafter contracts COVID-19. The church, nonprofit, or charitable organization may be shielded from liability since the potential COVID-19 exposure resulted either on the premises owned or operated by the entity, or during an activity managed, organized, or sponsored by the entity.
- A commercial real estate developer, project owner, or homeowner contracts with a construction entity or other professional service provider to perform services on their property or home. If a worker contracted COVID-19, the worker is likely already prohibited from filing suit against his direct employer but may decide to pursue the project owner or homeowner. In such a case, typical workers compensation protection would not apply since the project owner or homeowner does not directly employ the individual worker potentially exposed to COVID-19. Rather, SB1 likely offers protection to the project owner or homeowner since the potential exposure would have occurred while on premises owned by the project owner or homeowner.
Finally, protection is extended to service providers who enter the property of another to provide property or services and unintentionally spread COVID-19 to the receiver of the services or property.
These hypotheticals are not exhaustive as SB1 provides broad protections for many different individuals, corporations, LLCs, government bodies, nonprofits, and others. Importantly, if SB1 is signed into law, these protections will retroactively apply to any cause of action accruing on or after March 1, 2020.
If you have questions about Senate Bill 1, contact your DSV attorney or Tyler Lemen at firstname.lastname@example.org
***The information contained on this website is for informational purposes and is not intended as formal legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. No attorney client relationship is established or intended as a result of the information contained on this website.***