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 US 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.
Zahari, Luke, Retroactive COVID-19 ‘Immunity’: Useless for Patients, Devastating for Plaintiffs (February 1, 2021).