The COVID-19 pandemic has left much of the world reeling. While it’s a gravely serious concern for everyone, the elderly and infirm are particularly vulnerable.
As of May 21, 779 residents and 466 staff members have been infected across Oklahoma nursing homes and long-term care facilities. 151 residents and 2 staff members have died. Combined, these figures account for 27% of total cases and 50% of deaths in Oklahoma.
Nursing Home Liability Issues
On May 12, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt approved Senate Bill 300, known as the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Limited Liability Act. SB300 protects Oklahoma healthcare providers from civil liability during the state’s public health crisis that is not the result of “gross negligence” or “willful or wanton misconduct.” The act is in effect through October 31, 2020 or until any emergency health declarations have ended—whichever is later.
What is gross negligence?
In the context of medical malpractice, gross negligence refers to especially reckless or mistaken conduct that is obviously wrong, even to an average person without medical training. Gross negligence is more severe than ordinary negligence, which is a mere failure to exercise reasonable care.
What is willful or wanton misconduct?
Similarly, willful or wanton misconduct refers to intentional actions (or inactions) where the healthcare provider knew that harm would likely result and acted with conscious disregard of the patient’s health or safety.
Possible examples of gross negligence and willful or wanton misconduct for a healthcare facility dealing with COVID-19 infections could include the following:
- Knowingly failing to isolate infected patients or allowing infected staff to return to work without properly quarantining
- Willfully caring for infected patients or handling contaminated material without proper personal protective equipment (PPE) if available
- Neglecting to disinfect common contact points and surfaces
- A staff member working while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
While these behaviors are certainly egregious, it’s important to note that it could be difficult to prove that any of the above actions directly resulted in the patient becoming infected with COVID-19.
If you suspect that you or your loved one has contracted COVID-19 due to gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct by a healthcare provider, Lloyd & Lloyd is here to help. We’ll review all of your legal options and give you the best guidance possible. For a free consultation, call us at 918-246-0200 or fill out a Case Review Form online.