Retroactive COVID-19 'Immunity': Useless for Patients, Devastating for Plaintiffs

60 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2021

See all articles by Luke Zahari

Luke Zahari

The University of Iowa College of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2021


This Note argues that the retroactivity provision of Iowa’s COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act violates the due-process protections belonging to Iowans under both the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions. Passed in response to the challenges faced by Iowa businesses in reopening following the advent of the novel coronavirus, the Act expressly extinguishes civil causes of action already accrued under the common law. Generally, the rule against retroactivity prohibits legislatures from extinguishing rights in such a retroactive fashion. Moreover, despite Iowa jurisprudence contemplating that emergency conditions might validate retroactive laws that would otherwise be unconstitutional, the effects of COVID-19 in Iowa do not rise to a level that would warrant such a dramatic relaxation of the judicial check on legislative power. The Iowa Supreme Court should hold the retroactivity provision of the Act unconstitutional and eliminate the emergency exception to the ordinary rule against retroactivity both to bolster the constitutional protections for the rights of individual Iowans and to maintain the separation of powers that is integral to limited government.

Keywords: retroactivity, retroactive, due process, COVID-19, separation of powers, constitutional law, Iowa, judicial review

JEL Classification: K10, K11, K13

Suggested Citation

Zahari, Luke, Retroactive COVID-19 'Immunity': Useless for Patients, Devastating for Plaintiffs (February 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Luke Zahari (Contact Author)

The University of Iowa College of Law ( email )

280 Boyd Law Building
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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