COVID-19: New York Waives Medical Malpractice Liability
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature reached an agreement on the New York State 2020-2021 Budget. Included in the budget legislative package is a bill that grants sweeping personal injury liability protections to hospitals and health care workers treating the surge of patients infected with the coronavirus.
Titled the “Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act,” the statute largely lifts the threat of medical malpractice lawsuits at a time when New York hospitals are reeling from ventilator and protective-gear shortages and overcrowding that could force them to make wrenching choices about allocating lifesaving care.
The State has waived liability for the duration of the declared COVID-19 state of emergency for all health providers and facilities impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. This affects not only COVID-19 patients, but also any patient who presents at an impacted healthcare facility or to a healthcare professional during the period of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.
The New York bill protects more than just physicians and nurses, but also the boards and administrators running the institutions. It also covers nursing homes and a number of other health-care workers. It protects them not only from tort claims, but the less likely possibility of criminal prosecutions stemming from loss of life. The statute’s protections are not unlimited, and the law does not excuse intentional criminal misconduct, reckless misconduct or intentional infliction of harm to patients. The immunity will expire whenever the state of emergency Gov. Cuomo declared in March is lifted.
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