Operators mull bankruptcy as a hedge against lawsuits

Long-term care providers are trying to thwart an effort by Connecticut lawmakers that would allow lawsuits to be filed against nursing homes that failed to comply with state and federal COVID-19 guidance over the last year. 

The legislation, S.B. 1029, which state lawmakers are now debating, would allow individuals to bring civil action against a licensed nursing home for injuries resulting from compliance failures related to the pandemic.

Connecticut was one of several states that implemented legal immunity from COVID-based lawsuits against nursing homes during the start of the pandemic. That lasted until Gov. Ned Lamont (D) ended the liability waivers for providers in February.

Both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers have expressed support for the legislation, arguing that it would hold nursing homes accountable for proven failures.

Providers, however, contend that guidance on both the state and federal level have changed multiple times since the pandemic’s onset in early March. The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities suggested that the legislation should provide more clarity on what public health guidelines would be used for determining if providers failed to comply. 

“Nursing homes are in an unprecedented period of financial instability and insecurity,” Matthew Barrett, the organization’s president and CEO, told local media. “Any legislation that has the potential to increase nursing home costs would be something that would be all pointing in the wrong direction.”

Overall, more than 166 wrongful death lawsuits nationwide have been filed against healthcare or medical settings since April 2020, according to consulting firm Hunton Andrews Kurth’s COVID litigation tracker.