The first hearing for a bill that would limit legal liability for Ohio beekeepers took place this week before the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), offered several reasons for the proposal, including that beekeeping has recently grown in popularity along with increased demand for honey products, bees play an important role in pollinating plants and contribute to the agricultural economy, and beekeepers have incurred expenses defending themselves against lawsuits that are typically unsuccessful.
House Bill 392 aims to provide immunity from liability for any personal injury or property damage that occurs in connection with keeping and maintaining bees, bee equipment, queen breeding equipment, apiaries, and appliances, as long as the beekeeper does all of the following:
- Registers the apiary with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, as is currently required by Ohio law;
- Operates according to Ohio Revised Code Chapter 909, which contains provisions for apiaries;
- Implements and complies with the best management practices for beekeeping as established by the Ohio State Beekeepers Association; and
- Complies with local zoning ordinance provisions for apiaries. Note that zoning ordinances for apiaries would likely exist only in incorporated areas, as Ohio’s “agricultural exemption from zoning” prohibits townships and counties from using zoning to regulate agricultural activities like beekeeping in most situations.
A beekeeper would not have immunity from liability resulting from intentional tortious conduct or gross negligence, however.
The second hearing for the bill will take place on December 5, 2017. Information about the proposal is available here.