Proposals to extend safe harbor from lawsuits to health care facilities and businesses for claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic were introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature recently. The much-needed legislation comes following weeks of calls by PCCJR and its members to protect heroes of the pandemic and ensure the economy can get started again.
The series of bills cover businesses, hospitals and nursing homes, among others. Trial lawyers have already started cashing in on COVID-19 suits, including a lawsuit against Giant Eagle, a grocery store chain in western Pennsylvania, for requiring customers to wear protective face masks in compliance with Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order.
S.B. 1194, introduced by Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) would grant businesses with protection from claims of coronavirus exposure, provided they engaged in good faith efforts to adhere to public health guidelines. This bill does not apply to cases of gross negligence.
Another bill, S.B. 1181 would provide safe harbor to hospitals and nursing homes, in certain situations, from medical malpractice and other negligence claims for treatment provided during any declared state of disaster emergency. Introduced by Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Mercer), this bill does not apply to criminal liability, intentional conduct or claims of gross negligence.
Sen. Kristen Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Adams) introduced S.B. 1161, a bill to protect businesses from both criminal and civil liability related to their ongoing authorized operations during a declared disaster emergency. Additionally, the proposal would prevent actions from being taken to impose administrative sanctions against licensed professionals for providing services during disasters.