lawyers in suits with clipboards

The nursing home industry has continued to take action over the last two and a half months to secure protections from liability in lawsuits that may stem from the coronavirus pandemic. The result: Nineteen states have granted nursing homes new immunity from civil liability either by executive order or statute, according to a report in The Hill over the weekend. The industry now is working to obtain nationwide protections from Congress in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill, the article added.

Immunity measures are being sought in part because coronavirus-related litigation would drain time and money that facilities would otherwise devote to providing better care, industry advocates say. 

“If providers are diverting resources to paying lawyers and defending cases, many of which should never have been brought, it’s a disservice to the entire profession,” Barbara Duffy, a Seattle lawyer and member of the American Health Care Association’s legal committee, told Barron’s earlier this month. “They can’t put dollars toward care staff.” 

Yet many nursing home residents’ lawyers, families and advocacy groups warn that moves by states to shield the facilities from COVID-19-related litigation could cover up abuse or negligence in the sector.

Michael Spaan, president of Inlight Insurance Services of Oklahoma, which specializes in commercial healthcare risks, argued that the financial losses to nursing homes will be devastating if civil litigation is allowed to go unchecked.

“Immunity has to happen,” Spaan told the Insurance Journal earlier this month. “I don’t think there’s any other remedy that will provide the long-term care providers with the solutions that they need right now. I think you could have the best nursing home in the country doing everything correctly and they could still have an outbreak in their facility.”

This article appeared in the McKnight’s Business Daily, a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.