Michigan Nursing Home Immunity – Should Nursing Homes be Shielded from COVID-19 Liability?
Nursing home residents are at extraordinarily high risk for infection, a grave illness, and death from COVID-19. In fact, over one-third of all U.S. Coronavirus deaths have occurred in elderly care facilities. For years, many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have provided grossly substandard care to residents, resulting in the Department of Justice recently launching a National Nursing Home Initiative to identify problematic care institutions and hold them accountable for providing poor services and treatment. Unfortunately, many states have recently passed temporary COVID-19 orders offering immunity from liability for health care workers, essentially granting them a license to continue administering substandard care.
At Olsman, MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace, we firmly believe negligent nursing homes should not be given a free pass to provide innocent residents with deficient care. This is especially true at a time when every precaution is needed to protect the elderly, who are at increased risk, from contracting and dying from COVID-19.
Intentional Understaffing and Undertraining Are Leading to Increased COVID-19 Deaths in Michigan Nursing Homes
Nursing homes are widely known for understaffing and undertraining personnel, which has led to an increase in accidents and inadequate care, causing catastrophic injuries and deaths. The emergence of COVID-19 has further complicated matters, as the pandemic exacerbates staffing shortages. Some personnel are unable to work due to contracting the virus, while others have quit rather than risk exposure to the disease.
While one might expect these facilities to confront staffing and other safety issues to improve declining levels of quality of care, many nursing home corporations are doing the opposite. Instead, they are pouring significant money and resources into lobbying for immunity legislation that will limit their legal liability for providing suboptimum care.
If your loved one has been injured, suffered an illness (including related to COVID-19), or died as a result of poor care, abuse, or neglect in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, immunity laws may make it harder (or next to impossible) for you to seek justice and get the compensation your family deserves. Call our office and learn what you can do to oppose these unjust laws that would rob a nursing home resident and the resident’s family from seeking justice.
What Type of Immunity is Michigan Granting to Nursing Homes?
Since the pandemic’s inception, at least twenty states have taken steps to protect nursing homes from incurring legal liability for administering poor care. Here in Michigan, we have a statute that was passed in 1976 which provides immunity for health care professionals who render service during a state of disaster at the request of the state. More recently, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law Executive Order 2020-30, which temporarily grants immunity to health care providers who provide medical services in support of the state’s response to the COVID pandemic unless they commit what is known as “gross negligence.”
Gross negligence is an extraordinarily high standard of legal liability that requires proof that the health care provider acted “so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results” before liability will be imposed.
What Can Be Done to Combat Immunity Laws and Protect Nursing Home Residents from COVID-19 and Other Abuse?
When legislators start pulling back on accountability, they risk the safety, health, and welfare of not only nursing home residents but also workers. Considering that abuse, neglect, negligence, and the spread of illness is already rampant in care facilities throughout the state, easing standards and providing immunity can only serve to exacerbate the issue, placing innocent victims at an increased risk of harm.
If your loved one resides in a Michigan nursing home, assisted-living home, or long-term care facility, you should be disheartened and concerned by the Governor’s order. The effects could significantly impact the safety and security of your family member.
The nursing home industry is continuing to call for immunity from all liability related to COVID-19 deaths, which has little to do with the welfare of workers and residents; rather, it serves to protect the financial interests of nursing home owners and operators. Therefore, it is critical to do everything possible to oppose the extension of immunity laws, and here at Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace we continue to fight any such legislation.
 Testing Guidelines for Nursing Homes, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/nursing-homes-testing.html.
 On-Third of All U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Are Nursing Home Residents or Workers, NY Times, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/09/us/coronavirus-cases-nursing-homes-us.html.
 Department of Justice Launches a National Nursing Home Initiative, Department of Justice, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-launches-national-nursing-home-initiative.
 MCL 30.411(4).