Porter Wright Morris & Arthur
United States: Shall we say goodbye to workplace injury immunity for mandatory damage from COVID vaccination?
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Keeping an eye out for the Ohio House Bill 401
Even though the federal government has decided to mandate COVID vaccination by many employers, a bill introduced to the Ohio legislature, if passed, would eliminate workers’ compensation immunity and expose employers potential liability for injuries sustained as a result of compulsory vaccination.
On August 24, 2021, a bill was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives that would create a cause of action for employees injured as a result of the employer-mandated COVID-19 vaccination. The bill would revise the revised Code 4113 to allow employees to sue employers in an advocacy court for damage caused by COVID-19 vaccines. If adopted as drafted, the text would read (in the relevant part) as follows:
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the revised Code, an employee may bring an action against an employer in a court of competent jurisdiction for damage caused by a COVID-19 vaccination if both of the following conditions apply:
(1) The employer required that the employee receive the vaccine as a condition of employment.
(2) The employee submits the claim within five years from the date the employee received the vaccine.
The bill also amends the Workers’ Compensation Act to exclude injuries or disabilities caused by COVID-19 vaccinations from the definition of injury. This amendment effectively eliminates workers’ compensation immunity as a defense against legal action by an employee for alleged vaccine-related harm.
It is not clear whether the bill will become law, but it has certainly gained attention due to the abandonment of the traditional legal route for injuries sustained in the course of employment. In addition to eliminating employer immunity from workers’ compensation, the bill provides for a five-year statute of limitations – much longer than the one-year statute of limitations which generally applies to a workers compensation claim.
Particularly in light of the President’s directive that OSHA issue a temporary emergency standard to mandate vaccinations or weekly tests for many private sector companies, employers should be careful to monitor all federal, state and federal authorities. and local in this area. We will continue to keep you updated on all important vaccine-related developments.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.
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