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AARP Opposes COVID-19 Legal Immunity for Nursing Homes

Nursing home staff and resident

AARP Nebraska has announced its opposition to LB139, the COVID-19 Liability Protection Act, and any other legislative proposals to shield nursing homes from lawsuits related to the virus.

During the pandemic, nursing homes and other residential care facilities have faced unprecedented challenges. According to the COVID Tracking Project by the Atlantic, as of Feb. 11, 1003 Nebraska nursing home residents have died from COVID-19, accounting for 50 percent of all deaths in the state.

Todd Stubbendieck, state director of AARP Nebraska, told the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee at a Feb. 18 hearing that long-term care facilities are not like other businesses and should not be treated so.

“AARP has long fought for the rights of residents in nursing homes and other residential care. This includes the rights of residents and their families to seek legal redress through the courts to hold the facilities accountable when residents are harmed, neglected or abused,” he said.

A provision in LB139 would remove any liability from a long-term care facility unless the civil action relates to a “minimum medical condition.” The bill defines the condition as a diagnosis of COVID-19 that requires inpatient hospitalization or results in death. The family must then prove by clear and convincing evidence that the damages were a result of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Stubbendieck said the language seems to be an incentive for facilities not to send nursing home residents who are sick to the hospital for care and would set a dangerous precedent.

“LB139 appears to remove any accountability from a nursing home provider as long as the resident wasn’t hospitalized or died,” he said.

Stubbendieck stressed that Nebraska has existing barriers to pursuing a nursing home neglect or abuse case in court, including protections from frivolous lawsuits.

“No family member who has lost a loved one due to neglect or abuse pursues this course of action lightly,” he said, urging the committee to not strip away the rights and protections of nursing home residents.

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