Gov. Charlie Baker has signed legislation that will shield the state’s health care workers and medical facilities from the threat of lawsuits and civil liability while treating patients during the coronavirus outbreak.
Senate Bill 2640, An Act to provide liability protections for health care workers and facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, closely mirrors legislation filed by Baker on April 8. The bill was enacted by the House of Representatives and the Senate on April 17 and is now Chapter 64 of the Acts of 2020.
State Rep. Elizabeth “Betty” Poirier [R-North Attleborough] said the new law will ensure that doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians and other health care professionals will not be subject to lawsuits or liability when they provide health care services in good faith. These protections also extend to medical facilities, including the temporary field hospitals established at Worcester’s DCU Center and at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center to treat COVID-19 patients, as well as to volunteer organizations that provide the use of their facilities to assist with the state’s pandemic response.
The new law does not provide immunity to individuals or facilities for damages caused by an act or omission constituting gross negligence, recklessness or conduct with an intent to harm or to discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It also does not provide immunity from consumer protection actions brought by the Attorney General, or from false claim actions brought by or on behalf of the Commonwealth.
Poirier noted that the protections contained in the new law are retroactive to March 10 – the day Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency – and will remain in effect until the State of Emergency is lifted.