Nursing Homes Should Not Get Immunity for COVID-19 Misconduct
The New Jersey legislature passed bill S2333/A3910 providing criminal and civil immunity to health care workers and hospitals in the state for medical treatment related to the COVID-19 emergency. The bill does not extend immunity to acts or omissions constituting gross negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct.
The bill, which passed both houses overwhelmingly and passed by the governor, is retroactive to March 9, 2020. The protections allowed under this bill will be available for COVID-19 related treatment during the state of emergency declared by the Governor.
The Implications on Nursing Home Victims
While the passing of this new bill provides relief to the nursing homes and facilities, it will make it difficult and even nearly impossible for those elderly victims seeking justice to sue New Jersey nursing homes in the wake of a pandemic that has so far claimed the lives of more than 6,700 residents. Although this new bill does not bar all lawsuits, the state has effectively raised the bar in what might be considered negligence.
It is well known that the nursing home industry is not one that regulates itself well. And although the goal of the bill is to protect front line workers, the immunities provided are also protecting bad actor nursing homes. For instance, according to some, it should not come as a surprise that the death toll in nursing homes has been exacerbated by inadequate supplies and masks and other protective equipment, as well as staffing shortage. All of this, which arguably led to the spread of the deadly virus amongst residents, could have been avoided. And now, with the immunity provided in the bill, those nursing home facilities responsible for the deaths will not be brought to justice.
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