LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — A local attorney says a law enacted after Hurricane Katrina could give nursing homes with COVID-19 clusters immunity to lawsuits from residents’ families.
After the Category 5 hurricane, Louisiana passed a law that said during a state of emergency, any health care provider who helped a person injured as a result of the emergency could not be civilly liable for causing their death except if they acted with gross negligence or willful misconduct.
The law states: “…during a declared state of emergency anywhere in the state, any health care provider who in good faith voluntarily renders emergency care or first aid to assist persons injured as a result of the emergency whether the aid is rendered in the area subject to the declaration of emergency or elsewhere shall not be civilly liable for causing the death of, or injury to, any person or damage to any property except in the event of gross negligence or willful misconduct.”
“This statute is incredibly beneficial to a negligent nursing home that has a huge number of people that have contracted COVID-19,” John Hammons, a medical malpractice attorney, said.
Hammons says nursing homes with COVID-19 clusters are now using that statute to their advantage.
“Anyone in the health care industry is immune so long as this proclamation is still in effect for medical malpractice in the care of any patient or anything, whether it’s related to COVID-19 or not,” he added.
This means if residents in a nursing home contract COVID-19 in their facility and die, that nursing home could be immune to any legal ramifications.
“Something is dreadfully wrong in that setting, and the families of those residents should be able to know that our civil justice system can be relied upon to investigate and hold accountable whoever it caused such tragedy,” Hammons told News 10.
He says he doesn’t believe the law should be used to shield nursing homes whose negligence caused residents and workers to contract COVID-19.
“We need to know why we have one nursing home on one side of the street that has 95 percent of its residents with COVID-19 and a nursing home directly across the street on the other side that has one or two percent. That’s too big a difference for there not to be something amiss, and we need, as a society, to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
Hammons says because of this law, residents’ who have lost loved ones in nursing homes with COVID-19 clusters may not be able to hold them accountable.