In Massachusetts, over 8,000 people have already died from Covid-19. Besides hospitals, many of these deaths have occurred in overcrowded, ill-prepared long-term care facilities. Despite this, many people continue to act as if there is no danger, with no regard for the deadly consequences of their actions. From inappropriate beach parties attended by excessive numbers of non-socially distanced people without masks to thousands gathering in a similar fashion to protest, many Americans—and many Massachusetts residents—have knowingly and willingly acted in defiance of government safety recommendations.
For the grieving survivors of COVID-19 victims, or for patients slowly recovering, the issue is—can these people be held liable for these reckless actions? Is this negligence, and can one file a wrongful death claim if they caught Covid-19 at one of these gatherings and died?
New Law Shields Many from Liability
In April, a new law came into effect in Massachusetts that shields all caregivers, medical professionals, and medical facilities from liability for wrongful death or injury in the period beginning March 10, when coronavirus led to a state of emergency declaration. The bill, which also covers certain volunteer groups, shields from liability any doctor, nurse, caregiver—or the facilities in which they work—so long as the alleged loss occurred in the course of “good-faith” COVID treatment or during a COVID outbreak at the facility.
The only exception, which allows for claims against medical settings and professionals, is if the injury was the result of gross negligence, recklessness, or bad faith.
This makes it difficult to recover damages for COVID patients or their survivors, since it will be harder to prove that the actions by a particular defendant were reckless, as opposed to merely negligent.
This law has already been the target of an outpouring of criticism—and rightfully so. There will undoubtedly be numerous court challenges to its various parts.