As Liability Protections Pass For Nursing Homes, More Than 100 Lawsuits Already Filed
Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced the passage of liability protections for businesses from lawsuits involving COVID claims. Proponents of the legislation say it will help protect Florida businesses from frivolous lawsuits. Nonetheless, very few lawsuits are ever filed against an average business alleging infection. The same, however, cannot be said of nursing homes, which contributed more deaths to the COVID death toll than any other industry by a factor of thousands. Nonetheless, Florida nursing homes, which are facing more than 100 lawsuits from the families of deceased relatives, will still need to defend themselves from these charges.
One-Third of Coronavirus Deaths Related to Senior Care Facilities
One of the major issues related to this legislation is whether or not it will impact lawsuits that were filed before it was passed. Texas, for instance, is toying with the idea of making COVID-liability protections retroactive. That would mean that businesses could not be sued for failing to protect customers, residents, or their own employees unless the plaintiff could show that the business was grossly negligent. The question then becomes: Just how hard is that standard to overcome?
Well, the CDC has issued guidelines to nursing homes, restaurants, the meatpacking industry, and any other business that has to function during a pandemic. The new legislation says that any business that is in “substantial compliance” with health ordinances will be immune to COVID lawsuits. Whether or not this affects places like Hialeah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which contributed 74 deaths and saw 240 confirmed cases at one point, is unknown.
Typically, nursing homes need to have very strict guidelines when it comes to infection control. If anything, COVID exposed just how poorly these nursing homes were run. Employees would contract the virus outside of work, bring it into the nursing home with them, expose vulnerable patients, and then the facilities often failed to quarantine COVID-positive patients from COVID-negative patients. Does this qualify as “gross negligence”? It should. Anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that medically vulnerable populations need to be insulated from dangerous infections.
If the Negligence is Common, Can it Also be Gross?
Everything depends on how the courts decide whether a facility’s actions (or inaction) amount to gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Was the lack of infection-control measures grossly negligent? Does the fact that over 70 people died prove that the facility was negligent? We don’t know. A gross negligence standard generally requires conduct that is so reckless or wanting of care that it makes death or serious injury inevitable. However, the death toll isn’t enough to prove the argument. A lawyer representing plaintiffs in these cases would need to prove that there was a significant deviation from COVID protocols.
Talk to a Tampa Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another person, doctor, or health care facility, call the Tampa personal injury lawyers at Palmer | Lopez today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about our services.