The Liability of Nursing Homes During COVID-19

Posted On: August 31, 2020 under

Nursing homes have been widely criticized for their lack of infection control over the years. During the coronavirus pandemic, this scrutiny has only grown. Much is unknown about COVID-19 and how to treat it, but we do know that the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are most vulnerable to the virus. These are also the people most likely to live in nursing homes or residential care facilities. In Georgia, these facilities are being hit hard by the virus with a rising number of positive tests. Many are left wondering what this means for the safety of their loved ones.

A new executive order handed down by Governor Kemp on April 14 limits the liability of healthcare workers during the coronavirus crisis. The order is meant to protect those helping COVID-19 patients because so much is unknown about how to treat the virus, and the large number of cases means that there may have to be deviations to the usual standard of care. The order does not limit liability for gross negligence, willful misconduct, or bad faith. Essentially, if a worker is considered to be part of “emergency management,” they are protected from liability while treating patients for as long as the Public Health State of Emergency is in effect. This includes nursing home caregivers. It is not meant to be blanket immunity for healthcare workers and facilities, but some fear that it may be used as a defense against malpractice unrelated to COVID-19 treatment.

This order could potentially complicate someone’s ability to hold a nursing home liable if a loved one contracts coronavirus. The limited number of staff and the desire to keep residents safely separated means that some standards of care could get shifted or relaxed. However, a high standard of sanitation and infection control should still be maintained, but prior to the pandemic, many nursing homes were not meeting these required standards. While some duties of care may shift, that does not exclude the need for clean and safe living standards for residents.

If a family member is worried that a nursing home where a loved one resides is not meeting this standard and could be responsible for them contracting the coronavirus, a lawyer could be able to help. Call us today to get started on your case.