This past week, the Indiana General Assembly passed, and Governor Eric Holcomb signed, Senate Bill 1 to provide civil tort immunity from claims arising from COVID-19. This immunity includes claims related to premises liability and product liability, except for acts or omissions constituting gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. Significantly, the bill broadly defines “COVID-19 protective product” and provides civil tort immunity, consistent with the aforementioned exceptions, for harm that results from the design, manufacture, labeling, sale, distribution or donation of a COVID-19 protective product. Among other things, “COVID-19 protective product” is defined to include personal protective equipment; medical devices, medications, and equipment used to treat COVID-19, including products used or modified for an unapproved use to treat COVID-19 or prevent its spread; and tests, as approved by FDA , to diagnose or determine immunity or exposure to COVID-19. The bill also prohibits class action suits based on tort damages for harm that results from the design, manufacture, labeling, sale, distribution or donation of a COVID-19 protective product. The General Assembly set the bill’s provisions to become effective immediately, rather than wait until the traditional July 1 effective date for new legislation.
There is a companion bill, House Bill 1002, still working its way through the General Assembly. Legislators will use this bill to address additional liability issues they feel weren’t addressed in Senate Bill 1. As currently drafted, House Bill 1002 would provide more expansive immunity from other claims arising from COVID-19, such as:
- Immunity for health care providers from certain professional discipline matters for acts or omissions arising from a disaster emergency.
- Immunity from civil liability to certain health care providers for certain acts or omissions related to providing health care services during a state disaster emergency.
- Immunity to government entities and employees for losses resulting from an act or omission arising from COVID-19.
- Immunity for certain persons against losses, damages, injuries or deaths arising from COVID-19.
It is yet to be seen whether House Bill 1002 will also pass out of the General Assembly, or if Governor Holcomb will sign it. Legislators will continue work on House Bill 1002 during the second half of the legislative session beginning in March.