Repeal of a New York COVID-19 law that protected nursing homes from wrongdoing may open up more legal options to residents and their loved ones. The law limited the rights of nursing home residents, many of whom suffered needlessly or lost their lives during the pandemic. Reversal of the law may offer new hope for justice.
Repeal Allows for More New York COVID-19 Lawsuits
New York COVID-19 nursing home lawsuits are now allowed in larger numbers due to the reversal of The Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act.
The act was created to give health care facilities and staff protection from liability in the early days of the COVID-19 New York crisis.
The repeal is an important step for residents who suffered from severe COVID-19 and for families who lost loved ones. But it’s not without controversy, as the Cuomo administration is already under federal investigation for its handling of the New York COVID-19 outbreak.
The allegations being investigated include:
- In March of 2020, Governor Cuomo allowed patients to re-enter nursing homes even after they had the virus.
- At the beginning of 2021, Attorney General (AG) Letitia James revealed that the Cuomo administration underreported the number of New York COVID-19 nursing home deaths by as much as 50%. AG James’ report claimed that nursing home residents who were hospitalized and then died from the virus were not included in COVID-19 New York death count data.
- At least 15,000 long-term care residents died, but the data released in January 2021 claimed only 8,700 had died.
To add to the ongoing controversy, Governor Cuomo also faces sexual misconduct charges that came to light in early 2021.
Critics of the repeal say it’s still far too soon — but for victims and families, it may prove to be helpful.
Why Is the Repeal Important?
The repeal of the New York COVID-19 law is important because it allows more people affected by the outbreaks in nursing homes to take legal action.
Prior to the repeal, New York nursing homes could still be sued, but the scope was very narrow. It had to be shown that severe negligence or intentional nursing home abuse occurred.
In an article published by the American Bar Association (ABA), the implications of the law are explained through the following hypothetical situations:
A nursing home resident with a condition such as dementia generally experiences incontinence and limited mobility. If residents with these conditions do not get the care they need, the following may occur:
Any of these could lead to serious injury or death for vulnerable residents. However, even in these preventable and non-COVID-19-related conditions, the facility could avoid liability because they occurred during the pandemic.
If poorly trained nursing home employees do not practice proper hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocol, they may pass COVID-19 to an already frail resident. This could cause severe COVID-19 or even death of the resident.
While this scenario is COVID-19-related, the nursing home should have prevented the infection. Even though they failed at protecting a resident in their care, they would still escape liability.
Because of scenarios such as these, critics of the law argued that it is unfair and that many harmed by abuse or neglect during the pandemic weren’t able to take appropriate legal action.
COVID-19 Legal Immunity & Other States
New York is not the only state to have legal immunity laws in place — nor is it the only state to have repealed such laws.
Some states have already put an end to their immunity protections. For example, as of March 1, 2021, Connecticut stopped its protection of nursing home facilities.
“When it comes to our hospitals and nursing homes today, we’re in a very different situation. There is good capacity; folks are vaccinated in the hospitals and nursing homes. Things have stabilized.”
– CT Governor Ned Lamont
However, states such as Florida have taken steps in the opposite direction, seeking to pass bills that would further limit the types of lawsuits families can pursue. Opponents fear this type of bill would give nursing homes protection to escape responsibility for abuse and neglect.
In fact, AARP Florida released a statement voicing disapproval of these proposed laws, warning that:
“The death toll from COVID-19 in our nursing homes is a national disgrace. More than 9,000 Florida long-term care residents have already died — alone and afraid, without family by their sides. In numerous cases, facilities may have contributed to those deaths and other harms by their lack of care or abuse. Now the Florida Legislature would strip from grieving families the right to seek justice for deceased and injured loved ones who may have been hurt or killed by negligent care.”
It remains to be seen how long these immunity protections will be in effect — but for those looking to take legal action, nursing home abuse lawyers can help determine if a lawsuit can be filed.
Can You File a New York Coronavirus Nursing Home Lawsuit?
You may be able to file a New York nursing home lawsuit if you suspect your loved one developed COVID-19, suffered serious injuries, and/or passed away because of negligent care or abuse.
According to a January 2021 report from AG James’ office, nursing homes throughout the state may not have done enough to protect residents from COVID-19.
In summary, the report claimed that many nursing homes:
- Failed to have proper PPE, like facemasks, early in the pandemic
- Did not follow proper methods to slow the spread of COVID-19
- Were chronically understaffed, limiting the quality of care in nursing homes
- Failed to regularly screen both staff and residents for COVID-19
Any of these issues may have led to your loved one getting sick while in a nursing home and could be grounds for a lawsuit.
Work With a COVID-19 Nursing Home Abuse Attorney in New York
Some believe it was necessary early in the pandemic to protect health care workers and facilities so they could respond to the crisis without fear of being sued. However, at this stage, there are concerns that nursing homes are using the pandemic to push for protection from liability in the future.
The New York COVID-19 nursing home lawsuit repeal is a good thing for New York residents who suffered or lost loved ones due to COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes.
The repeal may allow families to pursue compensation, which can help provide some peace of mind over the unthinkable tragedies they have suffered. By working with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney, victims and loved ones can explore legal options.
The Nursing Home Abuse Center is here to help. Get a free case review to find out if you can hold a New York nursing home legally accountable. You may be entitled to compensation.