COVID-19 is especially dangerous to older individuals, and since nursing homes often house dozens or hundreds of seniors with serious health conditions in close proximity, many nursing homes have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

But are nursing home operators and staff liable for COVID-19 related deaths? This subject is more complex than you may think. In this blog we’ll explore it in detail.  

Nursing Homes Can Be Found Liable For Preventable Injury & Death

Generally speaking, nursing homes can be found to be liable for anything that causes preventable injury or death. For example, if an elderly person walks up the stairs, a handrail breaks, and they fall and break their hip, the nursing home could be found liable, particularly if it knew the handrail was loose or in bad condition.

This Liability Could Extend To Negligence Related To COVID-19

It is conceivable that the liability of nursing homes extends to the spread of disease, and could apply to COVID-19. 

As an extreme example, let’s say that a nursing home worker knows that they have COVID-19 and are contagious, and they purposefully cough on an individual, or contaminate their room with malicious intent, and then that person contracts COVID-19 and dies.

In this case, the family of the deceased, if they can find evidence of the nursing home worker’s COVID-19 status and their actions, could bring a lawsuit against the nursing home and/or the worker in an attempt to obtain compensation. 

Arizona SB 1377 Protects Nursing Homes From Frivolous COVID-19 Lawsuits

On April 30, 2021, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed State Bill 1377, a piece of legislation that’s designed to protect nursing home operators and staff from frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits, among other businesses and service providers.

Essentially, this bill allows nursing home operators that are acting “in good faith” to avoid liability for deaths and injury due to COVID-19. In order for a suit to be brought forward, the plaintiff must prove:

  1. That the provider or business failed to protect an individual from the pandemic’s effects. 
  2. The business or provider failed to act, or acted with willful misconduct or gross negligence. “Clear and convincing evidence” must be shown of this fact.

This bill protects against all incidents that occurred on or after March 11, 2020, and will apply to all incidents before December 31, 2022. So while nursing homes that are grossly negligent could still be sued, the vast majority of providers will not have to worry about frivolous lawsuits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Need An Arizona Nursing Home Defense Attorney? Contact Us Today! 

In general, Arizona nursing homes that are following infection control best practices and are operating in good faith will not have to worry about nursing home liability for COVID-19 related deaths. However, if your organization is being sued or you want to be proactive about protecting yourself, The Checkett Law Firm is here to help.

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