Last month we wrote a client alert about proposed legislation to limit the liability of North Carolina health care providers responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this week on May 4, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 704 into law, thereby amending Chapter 90 of the North Carolina General Statutes and creating limited liability for health care workers treating individuals during the COVID-19 public health emergency. (The relevant amendment to Chapter 90 is titled “Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act.”)
The amendment limits liability for all acts and omissions by all health care employees, providers, and facilities during the COVID-19 emergency declaration period. It also specifically limits liability for alleged “administrative negligence” on the part of a hospital or health care facility but does not extend to claims constituting gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm by a health care facility or health care provider. Of note, the amendment specifies that acts, omissions, or decisions resulting from shortages in resources and staffing shall not be considered gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm for purposes of establishing liability.
The amendment broadens protections previously established by Executive Order No. 130, entered April 8 by Governor Cooper, and grants immunity to all health care providers dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, regardless of their volunteer status and regardless of the availability of professional liability insurance. It also clarifies that immunity extends to not only health care workers treating COVID-19 patients, but health care workers treating all individuals during the period of the COVID-19 emergency declaration, which began March 10, 2020. At this point, it remains unclear when the emergency declaration period will end.
To read the full text of Senate Bill 704, click here. For more information regarding the amendment to Chapter 90 and how it may affect medical malpractice claims in North Carolina, please contact us or your regular Parker Poe contact.