February 4, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 35

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February 03, 2023

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February 02, 2023

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Pritzker Grants Health Care Facilities Civil Liability Immunity During COVID-19 Crisis Absent Gross Negligence or Willful Misconduct

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order on April 1 granting "health care providers" under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act immunity from civil liability for any injury or death that occurs while they provide health care services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, unless the provider acts in a grossly negligent manner or engages in willful misconduct.

No, this is not an April Fool's joke.

The governor's Executive Order 2020-19, authorized by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, covers hospitals, skilled and intermediate care nursing facilities under the Nursing Home Care Act, skilled and intermediate facilities under the ID/DD Community Care Act, skilled mental health rehabilitation facilities, kidney disease treatment centers, emergency medical service providers, outpatient surgery centers, and institutions that provide major medical diagnostic equipment, among others.

The executive order also covers employees and volunteer workers at such health care facilities.

The only questions about the scope of the executive order's grant of civil immunity arise from the language of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, and from the language of the executive order itself.

Section 21(b) of the Act says that all health care facilities will be immune from civil liability for any injury or death allegedly caused "in the performance of a contract with and under the direction of the state or any political subdivision thereof." And the executive order grants such immunity if the health care facility or its employees engaged in rendering "assistance to the State by providing health care services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak."

What "contract" must a health care provider or its employees have with the state to be covered by the executive order? Is a Medicaid contract enough? Is the immunity limited to the treatment of a COVID-19 positive patient or resident, or does it extend to all treatment of all patients and residents during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Our best interpretation of the Act and the intent of the executive order is that health care providers and employees have immunity from civil liability in treating COVID-19 patients and residents, and from such liability if other patients or residents contract COVID-19, as long as the health care facility and its employees were not grossly negligent or did not engage in willful misconduct.

© 2023 Much Shelist, P.C.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 93
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About this Author

Bob Neiman Healthcare Litigation Attorney Chicago
Principal

Bob is an experienced litigator who focuses his practice on health care regulatory counseling and litigation, employment-related counseling and litigation, and commercial litigation, including insurance coverage matters and other business disputes.

Bob also advises a wide range of clients on employment issues, such as non-compete and trade secret agreements, as well as harassment, discrimination, and wrongful discharge claims. He has successfully defended clients in a wide range of employment-related litigation. As lead counsel in Fisher v....

312-521-2646
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