On May 7th, 2020, The New York Times published an important and alarming story on the nation’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The report focused on how the push for profits at many privately run nursing homes left them ill-prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tragically, nursing home and long-term care residents have borne the brunt of the impact from the virus. As of May 3rd, New York state already reported a heartbreaking 4,813 deaths in nursing home deaths due to COVID-19—although the true toll may even be higher than that, as data is slow to come in.
In this article, our wrongful death lawyers provide an overview of the New York Times story and we explain your family’s rights if your vulnerable loved one was exposed to COVID-19 in a nursing home.
Nursing Homes Focused on Profits, Ill-Equipped to Handle COVID-19
In its investigation, The New York Times found that 70 percent of the nation’s nursing homes are operated by for-profit companies. Some of the companies are owned by private equity firms – and, in recent years, many of these companies have focused on turning nursing homes into profit maximizing operations.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, too many of these facilities were simply not prepared to provide basic protection to their residents. Public safety officials are not raising allegations that many nursing homes were understaffed and lacked basic personal protective equipment (PPE). These serious deficiencies have put vulnerable nursing home residents at risk. Without proper social distancing, screening measures, and sanitizing efforts, the virus can quickly enter and spread through an assisted living facility.
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New York Immunity Law: Nursing Homes Are Protected From (Many) COVID-19 Lawsuits
Unfortunately, family members of nursing home residents who lost their lives after being exposed to COVID-19 may have trouble bringing a claim against a facility. New York State officials have granted nursing homes considerable immunity against COVID-19 lawsuits. The immunity was passed in the state’s emergency order and as part of its April budget.
While the New York law does not give nursing homes total immunity against COVID-19 lawsuits, the standard of liability is much higher than it would otherwise be. In these cases, proving negligence will likely be insufficient – as long as the facility acted in ‘good faith’. To hold New York nursing home liable for a COVID-19 related wrongful death, plaintiffs must prove that the defendant:
- Intentionally broke the law; or
- Acted with gross negligence.
While this is a high bar, families are still encouraged to consult with an attorney if they believe they may have a claim. If your vulnerable loved one was exposed COVID-19 because of a nursing home’s gross misconduct, our Buffalo wrongful death lawyers are here to help.
Call Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
At Richmond Vona, LLC, our wrongful death lawyers are experienced, aggressive advocates for our clients. If you have questions about nursing homes and COVID-19, we are here to help. For a free, confidential consultation, please contact our legal team today. We represent families throughout Western New York, including in Buffalo, Fredonia, Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, and Hamburg.