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What Does the Covid-19 Immunity Bill have to do with My Medical Malpractice Case?

Everything. Nothing. Not sure yet. You name a response, and it might be correct.

Ohio residents wanted to get back to “normal” after shutting down the economy in late summer 2020. Businesses were fearful of reopening and getting blamed for spreading the COVID-19 virus. They demanded legal protection around the uncertainty faced by essential workers and businesses in reopening. And they got this coverage in House Bill 606.

This bill gives qualified immunity from civil lawsuits for “injury, death, or loss” caused by or related to “the transmission or contraction” of COVID-19. The bill is retroactive to the date that Ohio declared a state of emergency (March 9, 2020) and will extend to September 30, 2021.

The bill has two main provisions, one that protects businesses and one that protects healthcare services. Let’s take a look at the healthcare services component.

House Bill 606 gives civil immunity to healthcare providers, hospitals, nursing homes, dental offices, etc., from tort actions resulting from “provision, withholding, or withdrawal” of services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill covers basically all healthcare services, including the distribution of medication and equipment. While the bill does not provide absolute protection for healthcare services and workers, it provides a very broad cover. And we expect insurance companies will try to expand the bill’s reach even more.

Consider a patient who goes to the hospital for an elective hand surgery in October 2020, and the surgeon accidentally operates on the wrong hand. This is clearly medical malpractice, but the attorney hired (by an insurance company) to defend the physician/hospital may attempt to invoke the immunity of HB 606 by arguing that the medical mistake was somehow related to the pandemic, no matter how unrelated it really is. Of course, this was not the intent behind HB 606, but if we know one thing about insurance companies, it is this: they will fight tooth and nail to protect their money, and if that means claiming a law covers something it clearly wasn’t meant to cover, they will make that claim.

Frankly, the protection in the bill for healthcare workers really isn’t necessary. The law in Ohio for decades has only required medical providers to give care that is “reasonable under the circumstances.” If the circumstances during a pandemic are in fact different, then healthcare providers can simply argue that the standard of care is different, too. And if the circumstances aren’t different, then they ought not to be able to avoid accountability simply because there is a pandemic.

So What Does this Mean for You and Your Medical Malpractice Case?

Well, for one, it means that medical malpractice cases just got more difficult and confusing. House Bill 606 will be raised as a potential defense in virtually every medical negligence case relating to care provided from March 9, 2020, through September 30, 2021. This will result in more extensive and expensive litigation and will make it harder for victims of medical negligence to prove their cases.

The true, most complete answer to the question, What does the covid-19 immunity bill have to do with my medical malpractice case is

We just don’t know yet.

It is too early to tell. Medical malpractice cases already are extremely difficult. They require expertise in both the legal and medical fields. They are expensive to bring. They take time to pursue fully. And the catastrophic cases The Eisen Law Firm takes on always involve someone whose life has been altered dramatically. One thing is certain: the immunity bill makes these cases even more difficult and risky. This means it is imperative that victims of medical negligence seek out experienced medical negligence attorneys to investigate and litigate their cases.

How can the Eisen Law Firm help in a Medical Malpractice Case?

At The Eisen Law Firm, we represent individuals who have been harmed by medical negligence. It is all we do. We focus our practice exclusively on Medical Malpractice, Birth Injuries, and Wrongful Death. This way, we can give each of our clients the attention they need and deserve. House Bill 606 gives insurance companies another unwarranted advantage in defending medical malpractice claims, but it will not stop us from seeking full justice for our clients.

Although it will be more difficult to bring a case during the time frame outlined in HB 606, it is not impossible. If you believe that an injury or death occurred because of a medical mistake, please do not hesitate to call our office. Our attorneys are highly qualified, thorough, and have a long track record of success in medical malpractice cases. Before dismissing the idea of a fair outcome to your case, contact our office or call us at (216) 687-0900. We understand the scope of the legal immunity we are up against, and we are ready to help you in your medical error case regardless of when or where it occurred.