The governors of 21 states, all Republicans, are asking Congress to provide “common sense civil liability protections to health care workers, businesses, and schools” in its next COVID-19 relief bill.
“When Americans take sensible steps to implement public health best practices, they should have confidence that they will be secure from unreasonable claims. Liability protections must be predictable, timely, targeted, and shield employers from legal risk when following the appropriate standard of care to protect employees, customers, and students,” the governors of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming wrote in a Tuesday letter to Republican and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
“To be clear, liability protections are not a license for gross negligence, misconduct, or recklessness,” they added, but they would shield against “the threat of frivolous lawsuits.”
Several states have granted or are considering such protections for healthcare providers and other businesses, but the governors said that a federal provision would provide “uniformity” across state lines.
Long-term care industry advocates also are calling for limited immunity from liability for COVID-related activities.
“We support reasonable liability protections for senior living communities and their staff, who are on the front lines and have been working closely with our state partners as they communicate with their state lawmakers on this issue,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living in June.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 is far more easily transmitted than we knew, and viral transmission occurs before the manifestation of symptoms. …We should not be held liable for something that we did not know was happening and had no way to prevent from spreading,” American College of Health Care Administrators President and CEO Bill McGinley previously told McKnight’s Senior Living.
Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, told McKnight’s Senior Living last month that the pandemic created an “unprecedented public health emergency,” and there is concern about the potential liability of healthcare providers, including long-term care facilities, responding to the pandemic and providing care while following updated guidance issued by federal agencies.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), one of the lawmakers to whom the letter was addressed, has said he will not support the next relief package if it does not contain legal protections for certain businesses.
“Our country can’t afford a second epidemic of frivolous lawsuits while we fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” he tweeted on Monday. “The next relief package should focus on four things: Jobs, healthcare, kids in school, and liability protections for those helping us fight the coronavirus.”