Judge Rules Immunity Doesn’t Apply in New York Nursing Home

New York Nursing Home

Earlier this month, Erie County Supreme Court Justice Jeanette Ogden rejected a nursing home’s movement to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the estate of a woman who died in care during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nursing home’s lawyers argued that the nursing home was immune from litigation under an immunity law the State of New York passed in 2020 and repealed in 2021.

In arguments that persuaded the court to side with the plaintiff, Napoli Shkolnik partner Joseph Ciacco argued that New York’s Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act did not cover certain causes of action—including gross negligence and willful or intentional infliction of harm—and that the repeal was intended to be retroactive, affording relief to those who were harmed by negligent care during the time the Act was in force. In addition, he quoted findings by the New York Attorney General’s office that lack of proper protective equipment, compliance with safety protocols, and testing put patients at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

Justice Ogden agreed, opening the door for other patients who were injured or killed by negligent or harmful care while the Act was in effect to sue for relief. This is a significant win, as defense attorneys for nursing homes regularly invoke the act as a grounds for immunity, even for actions that fall well outside of its legislative intent. That has stalled some lawsuits, even though the intent of the Act was never to give nursing homes carte blanche to ignore safety protocols or endanger their patients.

It also underscores the importance of working with a skilled attorney. Napoli Shkolnik’s deep understanding of medical malpractice law, as well as its experience dealing with complex cases that require a skilled interpretation of the law, makes the firm a formidable ally for patients who suffered harm in nursing homes during 2020 and 2021. If you or a loved one was the victim of negligent or harmful care during the pandemic, contact us to discuss your case.