North Carolina’s COVID Law Said to Give Nursing Homes Blanket Immunity as Some Residents Suffer and Die
Those familiar with our firm understand that our mission is to fight on behalf of individuals taking on powerful organizations. We represent people, not corporate interests. The law generally gives us a balanced field from which to fight for our clients.
North Carolina’s Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act takes away that balance. It has placed our frail and elderly community at risk and eliminated any chance of holding nursing homes and similar facilities accountable for negligence, neglect, and death.
You can help try to bring about change by signing a petition to end the immunity, and telling lawmakers to take action. A few horrifying experiences are shared below to illustrate what’s happening.
Terminally Flawed Law Imported From New York
In the face of the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 virus, the North Carolina legislature moved to pass a law that would address the incredible challenges facing the healthcare community. We understand the need for specific pieces of this law. An ER physician with two people dying of COVID and only one ventilator should not be held liable for a death that results from that unenviable choice.
North Carolina raced to ensure healthcare workers had protection. Unfortunately, it essentially imported the New York version of the statute, complete with a terminal flaw.
Our legislature passed the bill unanimously, and Governor Cooper signed it into law. Buried within its pages was a poison pill: Blanket immunity to nursing homes and assisted living facilities for any resident deaths that occurred upon the law’s enactment regardless of whether COVID-19 was a cause of death.
It was passed in May 2020 and made retroactive to March 10, 2020, when the governor declared a state of emergency.
New York Repealed the Law in Light of Its Tragic Consequences – North Carolina Hasn’t
In repealing the immunities of the original bill, New York Senator Alessandra Biaggi said:
“During the early months of the pandemic, the Legislature granted healthcare facilities broad corporate immunity, stripping grieving families of their right to seek proper legal recourse and potentially incentivizing nursing home executives to cut corners. Now knowing that we would lose over 13,000 nursing home residents to COVID-19, we have a duty to right this wrong and fully repeal the remaining protections.”
New York repealed its law on March 24, 2021. If you’re reading this, that law is still in effect in North Carolina, placing the state’s more than 36,000 nursing home residents at the mercy of a system that is immune from wrongdoing.
Families Unable to Seek Justice in Cases That Have Nothing to Do With COVID
Without fear of consequence, there is nothing preventing nursing homes in North Carolina from cutting corners with care, doubling down on the bottom line, and ignoring the pleas of families. It sounds too awful to be real, but we assure you it is not.
Here are just a few examples of genuinely tragic and unjust outcomes resulting from this law. These are clients of ours, and have made national news. Still, nothing has been done about the law.
Palestine Howze Died When Her Nursing Home Did Not Administer Antibiotics or Send Her to a Hospital
The Palestine Howze family contacted us regarding their mother’s death in Treyburn Nursing & Rehabilitation in Durham, NC, on April 14, 2020. We brought suit against the facility for what we believe is wanton negligence. In February 2021, our case was dismissed by the superior court, citing immunity afforded by the emergency law.
There was no analysis, no discussion, no findings of fact. The defense offered no evidence – or even argument – that Ms. Howze’s death was in any way, shape, or form impacted by COVID-19. We are currently at the North Carolina Court of Appeals on that dismissal, which we contend was inappropriate.
Julia Quirindongo Drowned in Her Bed When the Nursing Home Failed to Administer Her Prescription Medication
We’re seeking justice for the family of Julia Quirindongo, who died in preventable agony at Brighton Gardens assisted living facility in Charlotte. Brighton Gardens is claiming immunity from liability under the state’s Covid-19 bill — even though Mrs. Quirindongo’s death had nothing to do with the virus.
Cases Have Made National News, and There’s Still No Relief for Victims
Our cases of families unable to seek justice after horrific tragedies have made the news several times. Here are a few links if you want to read the story from a reporter’s perspective instead of a law firm’s:
Washington Post: Long-Term Care Facilities Are Using the Pandemic as a Shield, Even in Lawsuits Unrelated to COVID-19
ProPublica: The Nursing Home Didn’t Send Her to the Hospital, and She Died
NPR: Nursing Home Critics Say COVID-19 Immunity Laws Are a Free Pass for Neglect
North Carolina Health News: State, Federal Laws May Shield Long-Term Care From Liability Beyond Pandemic
McKnights: Lawsuit Challenges Nursing Home Liability Protections for Non-COVID Death
ABC 11 News: Durham Woman Sues Nursing Home, Says A COVID-19 Restrictions Kept Her From Advocating for Dying Mom
WCNC News: Charlotte Siblings Say Their Dying Mother Was Neglected in Her Final Hours
WBTV News: Children Sue Over Elderly Mother’s Traumatic Death; COVID Immunity Law May Block Their Lawsuit
NC Chamber: Superior Court Decision Upholds COVID-19 Liability Protections in North Carolina
NC facility failed to give meds to dying woman, lawsuit says. It may escape liability.
It Can Keep Happening Unless We’re Successful
If you think this kind of negligence is rare, think again. Our firm alone is pursuing around 40 other cases right now – not one with a diagnosis of COVID or a COVID death – where a frail, elderly resident of a long-term care facility died. Yet, all of the facilities are subject to total immunity. Instead of turning cases away and saying there’s no chance of winning, we have to try.
Please consider signing this petition to have this terrible law repealed in North Carolina so that negligent, neglectful nursing homes can be held liable for these awful circumstances and deaths. These senior citizens did not have COVID. They were neglected by those they rely on for care.
You can also write to your NC legislator and voice your opinion directly. If you do not know your NC House Representative or NC Senator, you can find them here.
We’re here to help our clients however we can. We believe there are many more cases of neglect, negligence, and abuse happening in nursing homes and senior care facilities across the state. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-866-900-7078. We hope that, with your help, this law will change. When that happens, we’ll be ready to fight for the justice that nursing home residents and their families deserve.