Connecticut is one of a dozen states that has given immunity to nursing homes and hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic, which will limit the ability of family members to bring a lawsuit over mistakes.
The executive order Gov. Ned Lamont signed in March makes an exception for cases in which criminal conduct or extreme neglect can be established.
“With the pandemic crashing down on us like a wave, we were working closely every day with the nursing homes. Setting up COVID-only nursing homes. A lot of back and forth so we thought the immunity was appropriate in order to allow people to respond quickly,” Gov. Lamont said.
Lamont said he would take a look at whether it’s necessary to continue the immunity past September when his emergency declaration expires.
In a statement, Matthew Barrett, president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said:
“It should be extended into the anticipated second wave of the virus in the fall and to other providers, such as assisted living communities and home health providers.
"These limited immunity policies recognize that from the beginning, much about COVID-19 baffled our nation’s scientists, medical experts, and public health officials. Regrettably, the pernicious virus remains erratic as it continues to attack our most vulnerable. Connecticut’s policy recognizes that a more flexible immunity standard is appropriate when there is so much uncertainty and resources are scarce.”
Meanwhile, attorneys like Jonathan Perkins are vetting clients with potential cases.
“They weren’t reporting to either the state or the families what was going on inside and of course the families couldn’t go in to do anything for their elder and sick loved one,” Perkins said.
Perkins said it was already well documented in early February in Kirkland, Washington that nursing homes were potentially deadly places for the virus.
“They worked hard to get this immunity in place and I don’t think it’s in the public interest that it be there and yeah they should end it,” Perkins said.
UConn Law Professor Sachin Pandya says the immunity provision is not absolute.
“it is not for everything. Typically, what this covers are negligence claims,” Pandya said. “The idea that the health service provider failed to take reasonable precaution that under the circumstances that they could have and that failure to do so caused the person's injury.”
But a COVID negligence case is going to be really hard to prove.
“It’s really hard to show a specific causal connection between what some nurse or doctor or healthcare provider did or didn’t do and your COVID,” Pandya said
As of Friday, there have been more than 2,700 nursing home deaths in Connecticut related to COVID-19 -- that’s over 64% of all COVID deaths in the state. Many of those families are still searching for answers.