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West Virginia's COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act
By Charity Lawrence, Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC
The West Virginia Legislature passed the “COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act” (W. Va. Code § 55-19-1 through § 55-19-9) which prohibits certain claims against people, businesses, and entities arising from COVID-19 exposure. The Act recognizes lawsuits are being filed across the country against health care providers, health care facilities, and businesses for COVID-19 exposure. These lawsuits threaten the reopening efforts of West Virginia businesses. (W. Va. Code § 55-19-2.)
In order to facilitate and encourage the reopening and rebuilding of West Virginia’s economy, the COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act eliminates the liability of West Virginia citizens, health care providers and facilities, higher education institutions, businesses, and manufacturers, for loss, damage, personal injury, or death arising from COVID-19. (W. Va. Code § 55-19-2.) No claims may be brought against any person, business, entity, health care facility or provider, first responder, or volunteer for loss, damage, physical injury or death arising from COVID-19, COVID-19 healthcare, or impacted healthcare (care that is offered, postponed, delayed or adversely affected as a response to COVID-19 or as a result of COVID-19). (W. Va. Code § 55-19-4.)
Any person or business that makes or provides products in response to COVID-19 that are used by any person, healthcare provider, etc. will not be liable for personal injury, death, or property damage caused by or resulting from the products. (W. Va. Code § 55-19-5(a)). Likewise, any person who makes, provides, or donates household disinfecting or cleaning supplies or personal protective equipment in response to COVID-19 that does not ordinarily make such products in the ordinary course of the person’s business will not be liable for any personal injury, death or property damage resulting from the products. (W. Va. Code § 55-19-5(b).) However, the person may be liable if the person had actual knowledge of a product defect when the product was used as intended, and acted with conscious, reckless, and outrageous indifference to a substantial and unnecessary risk that the product would cause serious injury, or if the person acted with actual malice. (W. Va. Code § 55-19-5(c).) The statute of limitations for those claims is one (1) year after the injury or death. (W. Va. Code § 55-19-5(d).)
Although employees may file workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19, the COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act specifically states that deliberate intent claims for COVID-19 cannot be filed against employers. (W. Va. Code § 55-19-6.)
The COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act was signed by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. The law is retroactive and applies to all causes of action accruing on or after January 1, 2020. (W. Va. Code § 55-19-9.)
Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC
300 Kanawha Blvd, E.
Charleston, WV 25301
Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC is the West Virginia member of the National Workers' Compensation Defense Network. The NWCDN is a nationwide network of defense firms specializing in protecting employers and carriers in workers' compensation claims and regulatory matters. For more information, visit www.nwcdn.com.