In early May, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper signed a pair of COVID-19 relief bills into law. One of those bills, Senate Bill 704, includes a section titled, Health Care Liability Protection for Emergency or Disaster Treatment Act.
The new law is intended to protect hard working doctors, nurses and hospital staff from frivolous lawsuits during the coronavirus pandemic. These protections are retroactive to March 10, 2020, and will continue until the COVID-19 related State of Emergency (Executive Order 116) is lifted.
This new law protects almost every health care provider and health care corporation from legal liability for all negligent acts or omissions if the following conditions are met:
- The provider must be providing medical services;
- The services provided are somehow impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic;
- The healthcare provider is acting in good faith.
- The healthcare provider is not grossly negligent.
This law is written in very broad terms and provides a great deal of protection to health care providers while the state of emergency is still in effect.
One of the most important aspects of the new law is that it protects all health care providers, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities from liability for COVID-19 related claims. This means that if you or a loved one contracts COVID-19 while in a home or facility or if the home or facility is negligent in the treatment of COVID-19, there is no right to pursue a legal claim against the facility, its employees, or the corporation that owns the facility.
Furthermore, the new law also protects homes and facilities from claims NOT directly related to COVID-19 if they can show the pandemic or a pandemic-related emergency order somehow affected the services provided by the facility.
This means that claims related to ordinary neglect or negligence, such as drops, falls, medication administration, wound care, and pressure sores, are not permitted if the pandemic has somehow affected the operation of the facility. Considering the widespread impact of the pandemic, many, if not all facilities have somehow been affected and, therefore, can claim protection under the law.
There are some limitations. Providers are only protected if they act in good faith and are not grossly negligent. Good faith is defined as honesty, fairness and lawfulness of purpose.
The opposite of good faith is bad faith, which is defined as the intent to deceive. An example of bad faith would be a home or facility that lies about the presence of COVID-19 inside the facility and this deception somehow leads to harm.
Gross negligence is defined as a conscious and voluntary disregard to use reasonable care that is likely to result in injury or harm. An example of gross negligence would be a home or facility knowingly allowing an infected person into the facility and the infected person passing the disease onto others.
Intentional acts of abuse are not given protection under this law and can still be brought against the wrongdoer.
If you suspect you or a loved one have suffered because of nursing home neglect, whether COVID-19 related or not, please contact the Deuterman Law Group so we can determine if you have a valid legal claim.