By James W. Lytle
When the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent, legal commentators, physician organizations, and health care policymakers sounded the alarm over the potential civil and criminal liabilities that practitioners and facilities might face during the emergency.
In short order, the federal government and many states enacted liability limitations. At least two states—Maryland and Virginia—had pre-existing legislation that was triggered by the emergency, while many other states enacted or are considering new legislation to limit liability during the crisis.
While the source (executive or legislative), scope (civil or criminal), and precise terms of these liability protections varied by jurisdiction, the speed with which they were enacted was remarkable, given the intensely contentious political battles that typically ensue over medical malpractice and civil justice reform.
Predictably, at least one state has already begun to tinker and fine-tune its liability limitations. Just three months and twenty-one days after liability protections were enacted, the New York State legislature sent a bill to Governor Andrew Cuomo that curbs those protections. The Governor signed the bill into law on August 3rd.