Liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits for Missouri nursing homes are being threatened by consumer advocates in the state. 

State senators are expected to pass SB 51, which would cover select businesses, activities, accommodations or services, including health care providers, including long-term care facilities, from being held liable for exposure to COVID-19 unless it’s clearly proven the entity was willfully reckless.

Providers have lobbied hard for liability protections for nursing homes during the public health crisis, and more than 20 states have enacted some type of legal cover for nursing homes because of it. It’s also been a key sticking point among federal lawmakers during coronavirus relief package talks.

Opponents in Missouri have argued the legislation is too broad and that bad providers would benefit greatly from it.

“It is written so broadly that it, in effect, does away with medical malpractice and nursing home claims for the next four years,” attorney Rachel Stahle told local media.

“This is neglect like we’ve never seen before,” Stahle later added. “Most of it is due to the fact that the family members still can’t get into the nursing homes. They can’t keep eyes on their loved ones and ensure that their loved ones are getting the care they need or getting to the hospital when they need to.”

State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (R), the legislation’s sponsor, said the law is necessary to protect healthcare providers from frivolous lawsuits. 

“Small business owners are hanging on by a thread right now,” Luetkemeyer said. “We want to make sure in Missouri that we are standing up and protecting those small business owners, frontline healthcare workers and schools who helped us weather this pandemic so that they are able to get through this and still come out on the other side and be in business.”