• Leitner Varughese

Can I Sue a New York Nursing Home for a COVID-19 Infection or Death?


If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home in New York, you likely already know about risks of nursing home abuse and nursing home negligence even when a global health pandemic is not raging. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the vulnerability of nursing home residents has become especially clear. Indeed, many COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes have resulted in deaths of residents and have revealed the inadequate infection-control procedures in place in facilities in New York and across the country. As you might know, New York and numerous states throughout the country have passed immunity laws for nursing homes surrounding COVID-19 infections and patient care. New York’s immunity law was amended in August 2020, but it still provides immunity from certain types of nursing home lawsuits related to COVID-19.

We want to provide you with more information about the immunity law and to help you understand your options for holding a nursing home accountable for negligence.

Nursing Home Immunity Law Passed in New York in March

A New York state budget bill in March provided broad immunity to nursing homes during the COVID-19 emergency. By May 2020, more than 5,300 nursing home patients had already died from COVID-19 infections, according to an article in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Nursing homes have been lobbying for this type of immunity, and they received broad immunity through the bill. The article cited Stephen B. Hanse, the president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, who championed the legislation: “Liability protections for healthcare providers such as hospitals and skilled nursing and assisted living providers and their employees in emergent circumstances are quite common as these limited protections allow providers and staff to focus on the provision of necessary care while constantly adjusting to ever changing rules and orders associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

When the law was passed, Hanse emphasized that, “in instances of gross negligence and reckless misconduct, providers and healthcare workers will still be held accountable.” Yet senior safety advocates worried immensely about the broad effects of the law and the risks that nursing homes could be immune from many nursing home negligence claims filed during the pandemic. In August 2020, New York amended the immunity law, but nursing homes still have immunity from many COVID-related lawsuits.

Immunity Law Still Provides Some Immunity in Nursing Home Negligence Cases

The amendments to the immunity law clarified that skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities would not receive broad immunity from ordinary negligence claims during the pandemic unless the claims were tied directly to COVID-19 care. In other words, if a nursing home’s negligence results in injuries to a resident and the negligence does not arise out of COVID-19 care, then the facility can still be held accountable. However, in managing COVID-19 infection prevention measures and caring for residents with COVID-19 infections, nursing homes still have much immunity.

According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, under the amended law, “New York is still shielding hospitals or nursing homes from immunity for the care they provide while treating or diagnosing patients with COVID-19, as long as the care was ‘impacted’ by efforts to respond to the pandemic and comply with state directors.” The immunity also applies retroactively to the start of the pandemic. The immunity law does not apply to “harm caused by gross negligence, intentional criminal or reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Seek Advice From a New York Nursing Home Negligence Attorney

Do you need assistance with a nursing home abuse claim? You should seek advice from one of the experienced New York nursing home abuse lawyers at our firm. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC today.

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