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.
In the House, Rep. Seth Grove has introduced H.B. 2546 that provides protection from lawsuits against health care providers and makers of Personal Protective Equipment during the emergency. Rep. Dawn Keefer has introduced H.B. 2384which mirrors S.B. 1161.
Be on the lookout for a mid-week legislative alert asking that legislators be contacted in support of liability protection so that our economy can re-open and rebound.
During a virtual news conference on May 28, PCCJR members representing businesses, hospitals, health care providers, and senior care facilities joined together to send the message that liability protections must be in place for Pennsylvania to have a smart restart of its economy.
The message was simple and clear: health care providers should be able to deliver care and Pennsylvanians should be able to reopen the economy without fear of getting sued. By failing to offer liability protections, Pennsylvania remains an outlier among states. By comparison, New York and New Jersey have taken strong legislative action.
Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order on immunity doesn’t go far enough, particularly as businesses work to meet the unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment and others work to re-open in the face of the continued pandemic.
Our thanks to the Pennsylvania Medical Society, The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, PA Chamber of Business and Industry, NFIB-PA and Pennsylvania Health Care Association for participating in the event and continuing the full court press to get the legislature and governor to act!
Pa. groups call for protection from coronavirus lawsuits for health care, reopened businesses| Pennsylvania Record
Business, healthcare community urge governor for liability protections as state reopens| Pennsylvania Business Report
PCCJR signed on to a letter drafted by the Institute for Legal Reform of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urging congressional action on COVID-19 liability protections. You can read the full letter here. Link
Personal injury law expert weighs in| Trial Lawyer Greed in Time of Need: The COVID-19 Tort Fest and How to Curb It | Washington Legal Foundation
Not the first, or the last | Giant Eagle customers with breathing problems sue company over mask policy| Pittsburgh Post-Gazette