If you have an elderly loved one in a San Diego County nursing home or in a skilled nursing facility elsewhere in California, it is important to know about liability for COVID-19 infections and what facilities are doing—or not doing, in many cases—to prevent infections. According to a recent article in Time Magazine, nursing homes across the country are seeking immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits, arguing that patients and their families cannot allege nursing home neglect as a result of the spread of coronavirus. An article in The New York Times recently explained how California nursing homes, along with facilities in places like New York and New Jersey, are being encouraged to take COVID-19 patients from hospitals, which many are doing in order to increase profits.
What do you need to know about nursing home claims and what it would mean if facilities were immune from lawsuits?
Nursing Home Neglect Claims Tied to COVID-19 Infections
A variety of nursing homes across the country are facing lawsuits concerning COVID-19 infections and the spread of the coronavirus. In most of these lawsuits, the petitioners allege that the facilities did not take necessary precautions and did not have sufficient infection-control measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Accordingly, these plaintiffs argue, nursing home residents contracted COVID-19. These claims allege negligence on the part of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities that could have done more to help residents avoid COVID-19 infections. Many lawsuits are wrongful death claims filed by family members of elderly nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 infections.
Yet as the Time Magazine article underscores, “to protect itself [from existing lawsuits and those yet to be filed], the nursing home industry has launched a broad and successful lobbying effort to secure immunity from potential lawsuits over the way facilities are treating patients during the pandemic.” Consumer protection and elder advocates argue that this move “raises long-term questions about the oversight of an industry that has racked up standards violations for years.”
Nursing Homes Argue They Should be Entitled to Immunity
The nursing homes say that they need these legal protections—or immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits—in order for their staff members to complete their work. Immunity should be an obvious need, some nursing homes argue, given that “the pandemic has created an unprecedented situation that has left them struggling to care for a high-risk population while managing PPE, testing, frequently changing state and federal guidance and staffers calling in sick.” The president of the American Health Care Association (AHCA), an organization that represents for-profit nursing homes, says that states should “provide the necessary liability protection” for nursing homes given that they are “on the frontline of this pandemic response.”
Yet as many elder safety advocates emphasize, nursing homes have a duty to provide certain infection-control measures, many of which should be sufficient to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. However, as the Time article points out, at least 18 states have provided nursing homes with some immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits, and the industry is pushing many other states to do the same. It is important for families whose loved ones have contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home to seek advice from a lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact a San Diego County Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer
If you have questions about a nursing home abuse claim, a San Diego County nursing home abuse and neglect attorney can speak with you today. Contact the Walton Law Firm for more information.
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