North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 704, or the “COVID-19 Recovery Act,” into law on May 4, 2020. The Act’s purpose is to help North Carolinians dealing with the many and varied effects of the COVID-19 crisis. However, a number of lawyers and legal professionals have raised the alarm that the Act fails to protect many of the State’s most vulnerable citizens.
The Act provides immunity from civil liability to health care facilities and providers that arrange for or perform services during the period of the COVID-19 emergency declaration. Immunity is not extended to cases of gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. In practical terms, it is likely that this broad immunity will make it difficult or impossible for North Carolinians who were injured by health care providers during the period of the COVID-19 emergency declaration to obtain relief.
At least twenty-three states have taken specific actions to provide civil immunity protections to health care providers and facilities as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. https://www.bakerdonelson.com/covid-19-health-care-provider-immunity-update. While it is very important to support our health care workers, there is concern that for-profit nursing home operators and health care systems are taking advantage of the situation to protect their bottom line. https://www.law360.com/articles/1267512.
Individuals who reside in nursing homes and facilities are particularly vulnerable and the Act’s immunity takes away the rights of those who think their relative died because of nursing home negligence. https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article242563626.html?fbclid=IwAR2oJXgPvolx6wPu3XTuWc295U2c-AiXTXzLnOf8atLLc5jPsRWAC-OfWsI. Adequate staffing is the most important factor in ensuring that good care can be delivered to nursing home residents but, according to the Act, nursing home operators’ decisions to understaff cannot be regarded as gross negligence, reckless misconduct or intentional infliction of harm. https://nclawyersweekly.com/2020/05/26/commentary-language-in-covid-19-relief-bill-strips-patients-of-protections/.
Justice should be available to individuals, and their families, who suffer because of nursing home negligence regardless of whether their injury was sustained during a pandemic. If you or a family member are seeking relief from an injury or death at a nursing home call 833-474-6375 today, or contact us online and we’ll reach out to you.