As Governor Gavin Newsom announced on May 4, 2020, California began to ease some of the restrictions in place starting Friday, May 8, 2020, introducing the state to the beginning of Phase 2 of California’s four-stage reopening plan. Reopening without the proper protective bulwarks can have dire ramifications. One crucial pillar of protection is the ability to file a law suit against industries who acted irresponsibly during the pandemic. Unfortunately, healthcare and insurance parties are lobbying against this, asking the Governor for blanket civil and criminal immunity for all healthcare providers, including nursing homes. On April 9, 2020, these groups asked to be pardoned from civil or even criminal liability for “any injury, death, or loss alleged to have resulted from any act, omission, or decision made related to providing or arranging services, including but not limited to acts, omission, or decisions undertaken because of lack of resources, absent proof by no less than clear and convincing evidence of willful misconduct as measured by a standard of care that incorporates all of the circumstances of the emergency.”
The Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi vehemently oppose this proposed executive order. Nursing homes with existing histories of understaffing and substandard care may use the pandemic and the blanket immunity as a free pass to continue operating under unsafe conditions, risking both their staff and elderly residents. We acknowledge and extend our gratitude to our frontline workers, doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, and those working behind the scenes to fight the spread of the coronavirus. And we stress that this is directed to the for-profit organizations, corporations, and the leaders who run these large chain businesses.
Blanket immunity creates leeway for large nursing home chains to get away with neglect and abuse toward their residents, elders who are often completely dependent on the their care, in a time when they are the most vulnerable. Nursing homes have been hard hit by the virus. Those which were already understaffed, undertrained, and unprepared for infections, face the exacerbated effects of the virus, as low-paid and undertrained staff struggle to control the outbreaks. Yet it is not to the fault of these rank-and-file workers these facilities are not adequately staffed or prepared for COVID-19. Those who made the decisions to understaff their facilities unfortunately often did so before the pandemic, making them chillingly unprepared during the pandemic. At this time, these chains must equip their facilities with more staff and infection control training. Our elderly should still be cared for humanely, and the employees should be allowed to work in safe conditions. Removing the option of litigation means removing the consequential incentive to be held accountable for neglect and abuse that happens during the pandemic. It means depriving victims their civil right to have a judge and a jury of peers hear their case, to regain a degree of redress.