While health care professionals and other essential workers fight the COVID-19 pandemic from the front lines, they should not be worried about being sued for good-faith efforts they make in an attempt to save a life. However, some personal injury lawyers see the current crisis as an opportunity to cash in. The first lawsuits targeting health care providers, employers, retailers and other businesses for COVID-related injuries have already been filed.
Congress has provided limited liability protection for volunteer health care workers through the CARES Act, for manufacturers of N-95 masks through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and for some health care workers through the PREP Act. Despite these protections, legislative efforts may be needed at the state level – including in Texas when the Legislature returns to the Capitol in January 2021.
The American Tort Reform Association has published a white paper exploring legal liability concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic with potential policy solutions for states to consider. The main policy prescriptions include legislation:
- Limiting the liability of businesses that design, manufacture, sell, or donate protective equipment, medical devices, drugs, or other products for use by health care providers and facilities (and possibly the general public) in response to a declared public health emergency;
- Providing health care workers with greater discretion to make decisions about medical care without the fear of liability during a pandemic or other health emergency; and,
- Prohibiting lawyers from suing employers on behalf of individuals who did not develop COVID-19, were asymptomatic, or experienced common flu-like symptoms.
Read the full white paper here.