Liability Immunity for Healthcare Providers in the Age of COVID-19
Across the country, states are taking the unprecedented step of creating tort immunity from COVID-19 related lawsuits against healthcare providers. The idea behind these laws is to protect medical providers who are acting under significant stress and in the midst of a novel health pandemic. Critics say that these laws will leave the public exposed to malpractice without any remedy. Supporters, however, suggest that it is still the right thing to do under the circumstances. Texas, like many other states, has taken steps to protect health providers as well. Civil defense attorneys near you may be able to better explain the nuances of the law and how it could impact your unique situation. Consider the following.
Texas’ Charitable Immunity and Liability Act (CILA)
Under existing Texas law, volunteer health professionals have a relative degree of immunity from legal actions. The idea is that when someone volunteers their services to treat the poor or provide charitable care to the public, they should be shielded from liability. This law, found in Section 84.001 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, does have certain exceptions. These include situations where the health provider acted with gross negligence or reckless conduct in providing medical treatment to a patient.
Limitations on CILA Immunity
While the CILA law is helpful during the pandemic, as it shields volunteer healthcare workers, it does little to protect paid employees, hospitals, clinics and other frontline workers who put their lives on the line every day. Private healthcare providers remain liable for injuries that they are accused of causing. This presents a unique problem right now, because the novel Coronavirus is still not fully understood. In fact, as of this summer, researchers from Columbia University remained somewhat split on the following issues. Note that this is just a partial list.
- Long-term effects of COVID-19 on the body
- Why some children develop inflammatory syndrome and some do not
- All of the ways that it spreads
- What comorbidities create the highest risks of fatality
- Long-term effects of COVID-19 on mental health and psychiatric conditions
National Liability Protection on the Horizon But Unlikely in Current Political Climate
Congress is currently debating whether to assert nationwide liability protections through a 2005 law, known as the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. Under the law, in cases of national emergency and pandemics (such as the current COVID-19 crisis), the federal government may declare immunity against claims for covered individuals and entities. These include things like:
- Product liability protections for device manufacturers
- Malpractice protections for doctors and nurses
- Professional liability protections for hospitals and clinics
- Liability protections for pharmaceutical companies, especially those manufacturing vaccines
It is a hotly contested issue, and one that may or may not ultimately succeed in Congress. But for now, the Brownsville professional negligence attorneys of Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer, L.L.P. are closely watching the developments at both the federal and Texas State levels. For more information or to get an aggressive defense to liability claims, contact our firm today.