In response to a reported 15,000 nursing home deaths attributed to COVID-19 in New York, Democratic lawmakers have proposed a change to the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) that will address nursing home related claims during the pandemic. The proposed bill sponsored by state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, creates CPLR § 217-b, which establishes a two-year statute of limitations for an action to recover damages for personal injury or death of a resident at a nursing home during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Under the proposed legislation, all civil claims for damages against a nursing home may be commenced “within two years after the effective date of this section”—which would be two years after the passage of this proposed bill. CPLR § 217-b defines a nursing home pursuant to NY Public Health Law § 2801 and includes adult homes, enriched housing programs, assisted living residences and residential health care facilities.
Under § 217-b, this timeframe will cover claims made on or after the state of emergency declaration made by an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 7, 2020. However, it should be noted that this section is not permanent, as it will be repealed on January 1, 2035. The proposed change can be found here: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/S8619
This proposed addition to the CPLR follows changes made last March1 by the New York legislature which repealed the immunity protections for hospitals, nursing homes, health care centers, health care providers and most other health care workers from COVID-19 lawsuits. Prior to the repeal, nursing homes in New York were shielded from responsibility for COVID-19 related harms and deaths. Like the proposed change to the CPLR, the removal of immunity was in response to reports stating that the State underreported thousands of COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes.
Despite the bi-partisan support of the Democratic sponsored bill, non-voting Republican lawmakers seek to add an amendment that requires service providers to prepare and submit emergency response plans and have called for investigations into COVID-19 related nursing home deaths. The proposed addition to the CPLR is in committee for review.
Going forward, healthcare providers will need to be cognizant of the potential statute of limitations change in light of the removal of immunity protections by New York State. Furthermore, healthcare providers must be aware that as the pandemic continues, additional laws may alternatively grant or reduce protections against lawsuits for COVID-19 related deaths. New York lawmakers have been reactionary to the changes stemming from the pandemic.
Our Firm has experience counseling health care providers on statutory requirements, as well as preparing and implementing applicable policies relating to the changing pandemic landscape. If you have any questions related to this Legal Briefing, please contact any member of our Firm at 585-730-4773. Please note that any embedded links to other documents may expire in the future.
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