Nursing Homes Granted Immunity During Pandemic

As the nation emerges from the Coronavirus outbreak, Americans are restructuring their lives to find a new normal. For those who lost a loved one due to COVID-19, there may be no one to hold liable for their loss. But for those who lose a family member due to nursing home liability, there are options for compensation, although they may be disappearing with new acts of legislation.

Lawmakers across the nation are enacting nursing home liability immunity legislation to help protect care facilities navigating a difficult situation. Although these efforts safeguard employees, they also restrict nursing home neglect victims and their families from gaining fair compensation. While it is still possible to file a negligence claim against a nursing home, new standards of evidence and immunity statutes may make it more difficult to win a case.

Reasons for Nursing Home Protections

The nursing home industry has argued, that they, like many other business, had to adapt very quickly in the face of a pandemic.  While already dealing with a highly-vulnerable population, they also had to handle employees calling out sick, limited access to protective equipment, and infectious residents. Just like with other medical facilities, COVID-19 strained nursing homes’ existing resources and infrastructure. For this reason, nursing home lobbyists argue that these pressures create a need for liability protection.

In both blue and red states, governors have enacted nursing home civil lawsuit immunity or even reclassified certain businesses as health care facilities for additional support. Notably, the Greater New York Hospital Association, a nursing home lobbyist group, drafted immunity protections that Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law last month. Similar lobbying efforts continue nationwide for additional protection. Although these immunities do not cover gross negligence or intentional misconduct, victims and their families may feel they can no longer win a case.

Can a Person Still File A Nursing Home Negligence Case?

Despite extended COVID-19 related nursing home liability protections, residents and their loved ones can still file claims, although, given the timing, doing so immediately may be important. “Nursing homes may have been ill equipped to handle a global pandemic but providing sweeping immunity will prevent systemic negligence or patterns of abuse that were not a condition of COVID-19 to go unchecked,” says Attorney Sean Domnick of Domnick Cunningham & Whalen. “If you suspect the facility has not handled COVID-19 properly, contact a nursing home abuse attorney immediately. This could help reveal malpractice and save subsequent resident lives.”

Attorneys and consumer advocates argue lawsuits against nursing homes can help level the playing field and hold them accountable for misconduct. As such, attorneys across the nation are gearing up for new court battles. These cases will ultimately decide where COVID-19 immunity begins and ends for nursing homes.

Although many states are using pandemic circumstances to expand immunity, nursing homes must still adhere to certain federal and state healthcare standards. If those are not met, nursing home negligence victims may have a case, regardless of immunity laws. While there is no perfect solution to balance nursing home staff protection with resident rights, abuse victims deserve to have the option of litigating for their damages.