Operators mull bankruptcy as a hedge against lawsuits

Dozens of nursing homes and long-term care providers across the country are already being targeted with coronavirus-related lawsuits, a new report shows. 

A complaint tracker by law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth showed that 55 wrongful death suits had been filed against U.S. long-term care facilities as of early September, legal magazine ABA Journal reported.

A legal expert in early September warned that providers could see a wave of coronavirus-related lawsuits after the sector saw a rise in cases in July.

Most of the lawsuits center around claims that staff members didn’t disclose information about COVID-19 cases within their facility, infection control practices and the health status of residents before their death, according to the report. Attorneys are using the lawsuits to “piece together the stories,” the report stated. 

The report added that the cases will present “unprecedented questions” for judges, juries and arbitrators since they’ll have to decide on who to hold responsible for those deaths during a period where operators “were scrambling in the midst of the chaos and confusion during the worst public health emergency in a century.” 

“It will be really interesting to see how well the courts are able to balance the nuances of who’s really to blame at a facility when, nationally, we didn’t have a lot of information about the virus, and there weren’t a lot of resources,” David Grabowski, a health care policy professor at Harvard Medical School, told the journal. 

“That’s not to say there aren’t bad apples that deserve to be held accountable,” he added. 

Providers could be protected from the lawsuits in multiple states, the report noted. Twenty-six states have implemented immunity or liability protections for long-term care providers from civil suits that arise from bad outcomes during the public health emergency. Providers also have been lobbying for federal shielding from certain liabilities.