COVID-19 Legal Immunity a Looming Issue in Texas Medical Community
Sep 28, 2020
Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) September 28, 2020 – Front line workers who take care of patients with COVID-19 are under immense stress, and they may make mistakes – not due to gross negligence or neglect – but due to how unpredictable the coronavirus is.
The virus symptoms are not uniform, and each infected person presents with different symptoms. The medical community has warned that the virus deals serious and lingering damage to the body.
The death of a COVID-19 patient is heartbreaking, and the loss devastating. The surviving family is left shattered. Did their loved one get proper care? Was there something else that could have been done to save them? Were the care attendants, nurses, aides and doctors on top of the situation and provided the best care? Or was it a wrongful death?
Consider the recent death of a man at a College Station assisted living center, one of 11 residents who died because of COVID-19. In what is believed to be the first legal action of its kind in Texas, the man’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility where her husband lived.
The suit alleges that the facility neglected to give the proper essential care when the man was in isolation, and that neglect led to his death. The lawsuit further alleges that the center did not adequately inform the family about the risks associated with COVID-19 and did not outline the man’s care or how it would be implemented. The care facility was a COVID-19 hotspot with 32 of 47 residents falling ill with COVID-19 and 13 staff testing positive.
“The timing of this lawsuit coincides with other care facilities and medical professionals across the nation asking for legal immunity for treating COVID-19,” said Austin wrongful death attorney Brooks Schuelke. To date, some facilities have secured immunity in 14 states, including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan and Massachusetts.
A law covering volunteers responding to the COVID-19 disaster was passed in Texas in the last legislative session, and it included immunity for volunteers, health care professionals and facilities.
“The main question here is taking away necessary protections for families,” commented Schuelke. “And on the other side of the equation is the need for parties rendering care to be protected. It is likely to come down to a question of gross negligence and intentionally harming. That means this first lawsuit is likely to break new ground regarding health care provider immunity.”
It is also likely that the case, no matter what its outcome is, will be linked to other cases across the nation for years to come as the thorny question of immunity for health care workers is litigated.
The very real issue of protecting those seeking medical care is that courts may find particularly challenging if the health care provider did all that was possible for a patient who ultimately died despite receiving care. Intention and actions may ultimately be the deciding factor in wrongful death cases involving COVID-19 deaths.
Schuelke Law PLLC
3011 N. Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78705
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