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Indiana Enacts Covid-19 Suit Shield for Employers, Manufacturers

Feb. 18, 2021, 5:54 PM

Indiana drug giant Eli Lilly & Co. and other firms in the state’s medical industry received a big boost Thursday with the enactment of a state law giving employers and medical manufacturers immunity from Covid-related suits.

The bill (S.B. 1) blocks tort claims, including class actions, against companies, governments, and individuals who are accused of negligently spreading the virus—a bipartisan “liability shield” similar to those enacted by many states. The bill also goes a step further to benefit the broader drug and medical supply industry by blocking liability for makers and suppliers of medicines, protective equipment, supplies, and tests used to prevent the spread of Covid-19 or treat the disease.

Indianapolis-based international drugmaker Lilly is producing antibody drug bamlanivimab for Covid-19 treatment, and also provided drive-through virus testing. The company declined to comment on the new law Thursday.

Similar to other states’ liability shield bills, Indiana’s law wouldn’t protect from suits alleging reckless or intentional misconduct. Still, a nonpartisan Indiana legislative report says the law could save municipal governments and the Indiana Attorney General Office unknown amounts of time and taxpayer dollars by blocking suits filed by prisoners who claim the government didn’t protect them from infection while incarcerated.

The bill was a top priority for Gov. Eric Holcomb (R). In a Thursday bill-signing ceremony, he thanked the lawmakers for sending it to his desk quickly. “Most Hoosier businesses and other organizations are making good faith attempts to protect their customers and employees, because it is the right thing to do and it makes for better business in the long run,” he said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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