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New York Court Examines Liability for COVID-19 Related Care

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted most facets of modern life, including healthcare providers’ liability for medical malpractice. For example, laws were enacted shortly after the pandemic began to protect healthcare providers from liability with regard to certain behaviors related to the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. Such laws do not entirely insulate providers from liability relating to COVID-19, however, as shown by a recent New York opinion. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to negligent medical care, it is advisable to talk to a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible regarding your possible claims.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the decedent was a resident at the defendant nursing home. She subsequently contracted and died from COVID-19. The plaintiff, the administrator of the decedent’s estate, filed a lawsuit against the defendant asserting numerous claims, including malpractice, wrongful death, and negligence per se. The defendant moved for dismissal, arguing that the PREP Act (Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness) rendered them immune from liability for harm caused by COVID-19.

Liability for COVID-19 Related Care

The court ultimately granted the motion with regard to the negligence per se cause of action but denied it with respect to the remainder of the claims. The court explained that the PREP Act provides immunity only for the administration or use of a countermeasure, such as a medication for a health condition or disease that constitutes a public health emergency.

As such, acts that fall outside of the narrow scope of the PREP Act, like failing to enact certain measures to prevent the spread of disease, do not constitute countermeasures. Here, the court noted that there were no allegations that the decedent suffered harm due to the administration of a diagnostic test, treatment, COVID-19 vaccine, or personal protective equipment, all of which would fall under the PREP Act. Instead, the complaint asserted her harm arose out of the failure to enforce social distancing and visitor restrictions, failing to stop group activities, and failing to ensure staff and visitors wore masks. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion as to the majority of the plaintiff’s claims.

With regard to the negligence per se claim, the court explained that absent a violation of a statutorily imposed duty of care, a finding that a party is negligent as a matter of law is not appropriate. As there were no allegations in the subject complaint that the defendant violated a statutory duty, the court dismissed the negligence per se claim.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Syracuse Medical Malpractice Lawyer

While doctors have many protections with regard to COVID-19-related care, they are not entirely immune from liability. If you were injured during treatment for a medical condition, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to assess what damages you may be able to recover. The knowledgeable Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can inform you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 315-479-9000 to set up a meeting.

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