New Ontario Bill Proposes Protection from COVID-19 Lawsuits

On October 20, 2020, the Ontario government introduced Bill 218, known as the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery and Municipal Elections Act, 2020, designed to increase protections for healthcare workers and institutions, frontline workers, employees, businesses, non-profit organizations, coaches, volunteers and other individuals and organizations who are acting or attempting to act in good faith respecting appropriate COVID-19 protocols.

If passed, this proposed legislation would, among other things, prevent COVID-19 related lawsuits being advanced by individuals who were infected, potentially infected, or exposed to COVID-19 as a direct or indirect result of the act or omission of a person, provided that:

  • the exposure or potential exposure occurred on or after March 17, 2020
  • the person, at the relevant time, acted or made a good faith effort to act in accordance with applicable public health guidance and laws
  • the act or omission did not constitute gross negligence

The proposed protection to persons making a good faith effort includes individuals, corporations and other entities, provided that they are making an honest effort, regardless of whether that effort is reasonable.  It would not extend to any act or omission which occurred relating to any aspect of a business which was required by law to close.

The proposed protection would also not apply to any WSIB claim or cause of action against an employer by an employee who is actually or potentially exposed to COVID-19 or infected with COVID-19 during the course of employment, or in the course of supplying services to a person.

Any proceeding that has already been commenced at the time the legislation takes effect will be deemed to be dismissed without costs, with retroactive effect back to March 17, 2020.

Bill 218 has now passed the second reading, and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy. 

Mathews Dinsdale will be carefully monitoring the progress of the Bill, and will provide updates and analysis on any important developments.

If you have any questions about the potential impact of the Bill on your business, other COVID-19 related issues, or would like any other workplace law assistance, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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