Congress Considers Coronavirus Immunity for Health Care Workers
After several states have passed legislation shielding hospitals, doctors, and other health care facilities from lawsuits emerging out of the coronavirus pandemic, federal authorities are now considering passing such legislation from Washington. Thus far, only the states that have been hardest-hit by the virus have passed legislation. This includes New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Illinois, just to name a few.
A federal law would apply across state lines. Among the top proponents of such legislation is Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. McConnell has voted to oppose any new stimulus package that does not include broadscale COVID-19 immunity for both health care providers and other businesses. While health care providers are most vulnerable to personal injury lawsuits at this time, several businesses have fostered situations where numerous employees have become infected by the virus. This includes meat processing factories that provide food to America’s grocery stores. This resulted in the factories temporarily shutting down until President Trump ordered them reopened under the Defense Production Act. Such businesses are now working with the CDC to implement measures that will protect staff from laboring in close-quarters and spreading the virus.
McConnell Vows to Protect Health Care Workers from “Tidal Wave of Lawsuits”
Part of the problem facing medical facilities right now is the overwhelming number of cases they are facing. This has resulted in health care workers making difficult choices such as triaging patients. While such a choice could easily lead a hospital to be sued, the unprecedented nature of a global pandemic has spurred Governors to prevent lawsuits against hospitals that are forced to triage patients.
One area of concern, of course, is whether or not the immunity will prevent lawsuits emerging from other types of situations. As an example, let’s say a hospital is overrun with COVID-19 patients, and are then presented with a patient who has recently suffered a stroke. Lack of staffing could lead to this patient losing their life while waiting for life-saving treatment or it could lead to a much worse outcome if the patient survived and wasn’t treated promptly.
In New York, the legislation protects all hospitals or doctors affected by the coronavirus—not just those who are handling coronavirus patients. This offers broadscale immunity from any medical malpractice lawsuit from any patient regardless of what they’re being treated for.
However, there are certain exceptions to the law. For instance, doctors and hospitals can still be sued for “gross negligence” but the standard of proof in a gross negligence claim is far higher than a simple medical negligence claim. A doctor would have to show up drunk or otherwise miss something that should have been very obvious. So there won’t be a lot of medical malpractice lawsuits emerging from this period, at least in states like New York, and soon, perhaps, all over the country.
Talk to a Tampa Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you’ve been injured by medical negligence, call the Tampa medical malpractice attorneys at Palmer | Lopez to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.