Nursing Home Industry Seeking Immunity from COVID-19 Lawsuits

nursing home during the daytimeNursing home residents are at high risk for suffering fatal complications if they contract COVID-19, which is why more than 12,000 residents have died after contracting the virus.

Part of the reason for the spread of the virus in these facilities could be nursing home negligence, which is why the industry has been pushing for immunity from lawsuits. So far, several states have granted nursing homes explicit immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits. Several other states have also granted some level of immunity for health care providers, which may include nursing home workers.

States where nursing homes could be immune from lawsuits over COVID-19 negligence include:

  • New York
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Virginia

Massachusetts and New York passed laws that specifically give immunity to nursing homes. Meanwhile, the governors of Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan and New Jersey issued executive orders providing immunity. The governors of Illinois and Arizona signed executive orders providing broad immunity to health care providers. Laws were passed in Louisiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin providing immunity for health care providers.

The definition of the term health care provider is crucial in states that provided immunity to these professionals. Victims and their lawyers will likely challenge these laws and executive orders based on the definition of a health care provider.

The American Health Care Association (AHCA) is leading the national lobbying effort for immunity for nursing homes. The AHCA has spent $23 million on lobbying efforts over the past six years.

Immunity could allow nursing homes to avoid liability for extreme negligence that allowed the spread of the virus. Federal records show almost 62 percent of nursing homes were cited for infection prevention and control lapses in 2019.

The daughter of one nursing home resident in New Jersey was not informed about her mother’s COVID-19 diagnosis. The daughter had to demand her mother be transferred to a hospital, where she was placed in intensive care. The nursing home in question is now under investigation by the New Jersey attorney general.

Most nursing homes are closed to the public and have strict limitations on visitors during this pandemic. The lack of ombudsmen, surveyors and enforcement of rules, along with immunity could be a very dangerous combination, according to the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

Nearly 70 percent of the more than 15,000 nursing homes in the U.S. are run by for-profit companies, and more than half are run by chains.

Has Your Loved One Been a Victim of Nursing Home Negligence?

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