New York Attorney General Decries Nursing Home Covid-19 Immunity Shield

New York City

New York Attorney General Letitia James specifically criticized an immunity shield granted to the nursing home industry.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has called for state lawmakers to lift the partial immunity from civil lawsuits it gave to nursing home facilities early in the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report by NBC New York. The immunity shield, granted in the spring of 2020, gave nursing homes as well as hospitals and other healthcare providers protection from civil suits as well as criminal prosecution.

Lobbyists behind the legislation described it as a means of protecting overextended healthcare providers, like nursing homes, from lawsuits that might cripple them for trying their best to care for patients during the pandemic. Over the summer, state legislators lifted some of the immunity provisions, specifically those regarding patients who didn’t have Covid-19. According to NBC News, “It has never applied to instances of gross negligence, intentional criminal or reckless misconduct.” Still, nursing home and other healthcare providers remained shielded from lawsuits or prosecutions over their Covid-19.

As such, Attorney General James has called for the state to lift these provisions, which she says unnecessarily protect facilities who consciously overextended themselves, according to NBC. “While it is reasonable to provide some protections for health care workers making impossible health care decisions in good faith during an unprecedented public health crisis,” Attorney General James said in a statement, “it would not be appropriate or just for nursing homes owners to interpret this action as providing blanket immunity for causing harm to residents.”

As NBC notes, James’s statements coincide with a bipartisan effort by state lawmakers to repeal the immunity legislation. Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim introduced legislation last week that would get rid of the immunity provisions that haven’t already been rolled back, allowing the relatives of nursing home residents to file lawsuits against nursing homes that they feel mistreated their family members. In a statement, Assemblyman Kim said, “The governor handed out blanket immunity to corporate executives which cost lives and brought undue pain and suffering… It is a business model soaked in blood.”

According to NBC, the president of a group that represents for-profit nursing homes pushed back on Kim’s statement, saying that no nursing homes have placed “profit before the needs of their residents.” A law professor at Syracuse University told NBC that the existing immunity legislation may encourage nursing homes to implement reckless staffing and infection prevention practices. “If they’re not going to be held accountable for harm to residents and they’re going to be paid either way,” Professor Nina Kohn said, “you’ll have a certain percentage of facilities who made the business decision to engage in practices that unreasonably endanger the resident.”

More information on the liability shield is available via NBC News.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.

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