New York State Passes Legislation Partially Revoking Immunity of Nursing Homes for Negligence During COVID-19 Pandemic, But Danger of Federal Immunity for Nursing Homes Still Present

Posted on August 25, 2020

In March 2020, at the urging of the nursing home lobby, a little-noticed provision was slipped into the New York State Budget that gave nursing homes unprecedented immunity from civil and criminal liability for damages they cause when providing any health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. While nursing homes were still liable for damages they caused through gross negligence and intentional misconduct, damages they caused due to resource or staffing shortages, by definition, could not be considered gross negligence or intentional misconduct under any circumstances. Moreover, the legislation immunized nursing homes from lawsuits for damages they caused through their ordinary negligence. This

grant of immunity greatly limited the ability of New Yorkers to obtain justice for their loved ones who were injured through the negligence of nursing homes.

This extraordinary grant of immunity both shocked New Yorkers and legislators who were not aware that the immunity provision had been inserted into the New York State Budget. On August 3, 2020, after a great outcry, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that repeals that immunity for nursing homes for non-COVID-19 related injuries the nursing homes cause their residents.

But the danger of unprecedented immunity for nursing homes is still lurking in Congress. Some Congressional leaders are insisting that passage of a federal law granting that immunity to nursing homes be part of any new economic stimulus package. Bellin and Associates is keeping close watch on developments in Congress and the courts on this issue, which will have a tremendous impact on the well-being of some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.