Covid Pits Nursing Homes Against Seniors’ Groups Over Liability

Bloomberg Government
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Nursing homes are taking on the nation’s senior citizens’ groups over whether to extend new liability protections to long-term facilities.

Senate Republicans, with the backing of industry groups, want new liability shields to cover a host of health-care businesses, including hospitals, doctors’ practices, and nursing homes, as a way to encourage them to reopen their doors.

Groups led by AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit for seniors, are pushing back on new liability shields. AARP is opposing executive orders in 19 states that have granted some kind of lawsuit protection for nursing homes. They warned the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee against passing legislation that mirror those protections for assisted living facilities, according to a spokesman for the group.…

Consumer groups such as Public Citizen and the Center for Justice and Democracy have sided with AARP against broad liability protections for businesses.…

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said one of the reasons long-term care facilities have been reporting so many cases of Covid is “unsafe working conditions” that workers have documented. She said tort laws that allow workers and other to sue these facilities are a “powerful incentive” to ensure businesses protect them from harm.

Democrats have historically opposed limiting tort laws, said Keith Roberts, chairman of the law firm Brach Eichler’s litigation practice. A likely compromise is that Republicans may try to make liability protections a condition of new state aid, he said.

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