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COVID-19 Protections Try to Shield Nursing Homes From Lawsuits

Nursing homes have proved deadly for many residents and employees, as these facilities have suffered the highest fatality rates from COVID-19. Many questions remain, and these include determining why some nursing homes fared so severely in the battle against Coronavirus while others remained unscathed. 

Public health and other government officials, as well as the general public, may never know why some institutions were successful at keeping the Coronavirus at bay, and others failed miserably. 

Almost as soon as the virus broke out, lobbyists for the nursing home industry began requesting immunity from civil liability lawsuits concerning Coronavirus.  

Measures enacted in 21 states may not only keep possible plaintiffs from having their day in court, but may also make it difficult for family members to find out how their relatives died in the nursing home. 

The federal government is providing legal protections for some healthcare workers during the pandemic. However, nursing homes are not given immunity on the federal level. The nursing home industry is focusing on states to provide legal immunity for them. 

Accountability vs. Money

Many whose relatives have succumbed to Covid-19 while in nursing homes say they are not interested in receiving money, but do want nursing homes held accountable for the way residents were treated and the lack of information given to family members. 

Consumer advocates and watchdog groups contend that such widespread immunity granted to an industry will make it harder to hold these facilities accountable in the future. One personal injury attorney notes that this legal immunity means nursing homes can get away with poor infection control, unsafe facility design, and chronic understaffing. He says that letting nursing homes receive a liability shield leaves a “horrible” precedent. Another advocate termed the immunity as “basically a license for neglect.” 

In New York, which bore the brunt of the Coronavirus epidemic, the Greater New York Hospital Association drafted the hospital and nursing home immunity law Governor Andrew Cuomo signed. It frees nursing homes from both civil and criminal liability regarding Coronavirus. 

While nursing homes are not off the hook if gross negligence or intentional misconduct is involved, under the law, a staff shortage will not fall under the gross negligence exception. 

Evading Pre-Coronavirus Liability

It is no secret that many nursing homes were in deplorable conditions before the pandemic. Approximately 40 percent of nursing homes with Covid-19 cases were cited multiple times before the pandemic for inadequate infection control. Such practices almost certainly led to the spread of Coronavirus among residents and staff. 

According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), most nursing homes had control deficiencies prior to the pandemic. In half of these homes, problems were persistent.  Advocates say the immunity shield allows nursing homes to evade their pre-coronavirus liability for poor care or maintenance. 

Situations Not Protected

The Coronavirus is still with us and probably will continue to pose a threat for a considerable period. Lawyers say there are circumstances under which nursing homes cannot claim immunity from liability besides gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Should a facility fail to follow certain federal guidelines, lie to residents about the presence of Coronavirus in the nursing home, or attempt to cover up an outbreak, the immunity will not hold. 

Did a Loved One Die of Coronavirus in a Nursing Home?

As noted above, coronavirus outbreaks in our nursing homes are largely preventable. If a loved one died in a nursing home or assisted living facility because of coronavirus or coronavirus complications, we can help. For more information, visit our nursing home neglect page. 

Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 833.201.1555. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege. Cases handled nationwide.

[In addition to coronavirus COVID-19 cases, we consider other nursing home neglect cases including those involving serious bodily injury, sexual assault, death, and bedsores (pressure ulcers). If we can’t help, someone in our network probably can. We have lawyers licensed in many states.]

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Related topics: neglect (46) | nursing home neglect (38) | substandard care (45) | liability shield


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