ODH order for non-congregate sheltering: Protecting against liability while joining the battle against COVID-19

CLEVELAND – Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton ordered the utilization of non-congregate sheltering in the state on Tuesday, March 31, furthering the state’s attempts to offer help to citizens impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic while also opening new dangers for property owners.

While applauding the ODH decision, McDonald Hopkins LLC is also informing clients about potential liability risks as public and private facilities are turned into shelters along with other ways their properties could be impacted by the director’s order.

Several McDonald Hopkins attorneys also work for local municipalities and serve on boards of institutions that could play a role in Ohio’s emerging plans for non-congregate sheltering. The quotes below provide suggestions for how property owners can protect against risk in the wake of the order:


David H. Gunning II

Co-chair of McDonald Hopkins National Real Estate Practice Group

Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Cleveland State University

“One needs to examine a host of issues with their advisors. These include but are not limited to, insurance coverage, finance defaults, real estate defaults, union agreements, student and staff safety and liability issues…if university property being used…and general contract issues. After a thorough review, a carefully drafted lease, license or other contractual document should be drafted”


Elizabeth Sullivan

Co-chair of McDonald Hopkins National Healthcare Practice Group

“Ohio’s officials continue to take precautions to protect the citizens of the state and the Director’s Non-Congregate Shelter Order is in furtherance of that effort. I applaud all those taking affirmative steps to help others during this crisis. 

Owners and operators impacted by this effort or otherwise called to action during this crisis should take proactive measures to ensure that the necessary steps have been taken to protect their institutions or entities from unanticipated liability while offering this incredibly important public assistance.


Kevin Butler

Of Counsel, McDonald Hopkins LLC

Law Director, The City of Brooklyn, Ohio

"While the health director's orders have been proactive and laudable, converting public and private facilities to shelters comes with a host of liability issues that should be resolved before the conversion happens. Where indemnity from the state or county agencies might not be an option, other protective measures can be good substitutes. Even amid a crisis, taking the long view is advisable -- and to do that a public or private property owner must make sure the appropriate protections are in place now." 


For more helpful information on common questions related to the impact the coronavirus outbreak can and will have on businesses, please visit “Coronavirus: Legal and business insights” at mcdonaldhopkins.com.

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