NC Grants COVID-19 Immunity to Health Care Providers and Essential Businesses

Written by: Jeffrey Steven Warren, Esq. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians and policymakers alike have raised the alarm about potential legal liability for following crisis standards of care. All 50 states have issued an emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there has been extreme variation in whether states have implemented or called for crisis standards of care and liability protections for physicians, and whether they have adopted legal protections for clinicians who provide care accordingly.

On Monday, May 4, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed the “2020 COVID-19 Recovery Act” into law in North Carolina. Following a number of other states which have enacted similar legislation, key to North Carolina’s new law are provisions shielding health care providers from civil liability during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new law, which is retroactive to March 10, any health facility which holds legal responsibility for a health professional shall have immunity from any civil liability for any harm alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of providing health services as a response to COVID-19.

North Carolina’s relief bill does not allow for immunity in cases of gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. However, cases involving resource or staffing shortages at health care facilities cannot be considered gross negligence, according to the bill.

North Carolina’s relief package also extends limited immunity from civil liability to “essential businesses” if a customer or employee is injured or dies from COVID-19 while working or conducting business at the workplace. The immunity granted under the bill does not apply if the alleged act or omission constitutes gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. However, the bill expressly states that it does not preclude an employee of an essential business or an emergency response entity from pursuing workers’ compensation benefits under North Carolina’s Workers Compensation Act for an injury or death alleged to be the result of contracting COVID-19 while employed by the essential businesses or emergency response entity.

We will continue to monitor this rapidly developing situation and provide you with updates regarding developments as they occur.  For further information, contact Hall Booth Smith, P.C’s healthcare attorneys or any member of our COVID-19 Taskforce.

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