Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Earlier this year, Florida passed a law that gave health care providers " including nursing homes and other long-term care facilities " sweeping protections from COVID-19-related lawsuits. Intended to prevent a flood of litigation overwhelming the health care system, as well as other industries, SB 72 raised the bar for individuals seeking to sue senior care homes for virus-related damages, injuries or death.
The legislation, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in March, is again under the microscope as Florida has experienced an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases in recent months and nursing homes faced outbreaks that may have previously opened up facilities to litigation.
By the end of August, Florida led the nation in new nursing home resident and staff deaths due to COVID-19, according to recent AARP analysis, accounting for 20 percent of all coronavirus deaths among residents nationwide.
Older adults living inside these facilities are especially vulnerable to severe illness from the virus. Over a third of Florida's COVID-19 deaths overall have been among long-term care residents.
The state has one of the lowest nursing home staff vaccination rates in the country " trailing behind all other states except Louisiana " which critics said has placed nursing home residents at increased risk of infection.
"Despite the things that the state has done to try to protect elders, there are a lot of them in facilities who haven't been protected and have passed away this summer," said Jeff Johnson, state director of AARP Florida. "It's all the more reason for the state to really reconsider whether it makes sense to provide liability protection to these facilities."
Leaders in the nursing home business say these protections remain necessary to prevent the industry from collapsing under the weight of excessive lawsuits amid an unprecedented pandemic.
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