COVID-19 and the Courts **Doing “God’s Work” ** Stepping Up
A Message From the Executive Director:
We are a universe away from where we were when we published our last Update on March 16th. COVID-19 has created a worldwide pivot that no one could have foreseen, but everyone can feel in business and at home. We are yet to fully realize the total impact these unprecedented times will have long term but PCCJR remains vigilant working on behalf of civil justice sanity and doing our part to keep you informed. You can be certain the plaintiffs’ bar will use this crisis to pin liability on health care and businesses alike. PCCJR will update you on new developments as we learn them. Be well and be in touch!
PA Supreme Court Closes Courts, Cancels April Arguments
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has canceled arguments in late April as part of a statewide effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The cases that were scheduled for argument will be decided on the briefs already submitted to the courts unless parties request otherwise.
The Supreme Court declared a statewide judicial emergency on March 18, ordering statewide court closures for non-essential functions to “safeguard the health and safety of court personnel, court users and the public generally.” There are exceptions to the closings including election matters, children’s Fast-Track matters, emergency bail review and habeas corpus hearings, temporary protection from abuse hearings, juvenile emergency shelter and detention and emergency petitions for guardianship, among others. You can read the compete order and list of exceptions here.
Shortly after that first list was published, the court filed a supplemental order, including civil actions as an essential function, for the purposes of tolling a statute of limitations. It looks like they want to make sure no civil case gets left behind during this crisis!
As we reported two weeks ago, the Governor has closed the PA Capitol to all visitors. Legislators have adopted special rules to allow distance voting with the House and Senate both meeting in session.
Additional information about the court’s response to COVID-19 is available on the UJS Coronavirus Information page.
On a more personal note, Supreme Court Justice David Wecht announced he would self-quarantine when his son tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Madrid. We wish Justice Wecht and his family the best.
Coronavirus Relief Bill Fails to Offer Full Protection to Mask Manufacturers
When the U.S. House of Representatives passed a coronavirus relief bill on Saturday, March 21, 2020, the hope was it would free up all medical mask manufacturers to ramp up production and make this critical component of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) more readily available to health care workers. Unfortunately, a provision related to liability protections in the bill only has limited reach and impact.
Supporters wanted the bill to contain liability protection coverage for all types of respirator masks. Instead, the legislation only covered the much talked about N95 masks. Reusable powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) were not included. During this time of great need, extending full liability protections would have made masks more available to protect health care workers and patients.
Healthcare Workers Lauded as Doing “God’s Work”
COVID-19 has brought to light a whole new cohort of first responders! Health care providers, grocery store workers and truck drivers who are delivering goods are a new kind of front-line.
PCCJR is in full agreement with these impassioned comments by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding the doctors, nurses and other essential service providers who are “doing God’s work.” These selfless, dedicated professionals are modern-day heroes who deserve our gratitude and support.
PAMED is Looking for a Few Retired Docs
PCCJR’s partner, The Pennsylvania Medical Society is encouraging physicians to sign up for SERVAPA as volunteers to provide care during a surge. PAMED also is recruiting recently retired physicians to sign up for temporary licenses to serve patients during this pandemic. http://www.pamedsoc.org/coronavirus
Stepping Up: PCCJR Members Ford and 3M
Ford is working with 3M to produce personal protective gear for healthcare workers and address shortages resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. These PCCJR members announced this week they will produce a new kind of Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) for healthcare workers, while also helping to increase production of 3M’s current respirator device. Three cheers for this dynamic duo who have headed the call and put their talents and resources to work for the public good!
In the News….
COVID Crunch | Doctor’s Practices Face Cash Crunch as Pandemic Halts Economy | Bloomberg
From the Frontline | Am I Part of the Cure or Am I Part of the Disease? Keeping Coronavirus Out When a Doctor Comes Home| New England Journal of Medicine