On November 30, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania vetoed House Bill 1737, which “would have undermined COVID-19 mitigation efforts and endangered the public health by enacting overly broad immunity protections from civil liability due to the pandemic.”
Governor Wolf issued the following statement regarding his veto of the proposed expansion of coronavirus immunity protection: “Pursuant to Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, I am returning herewith, without my approval, House Bill 173 7, Printer’s Number 4625.
This legislation provides broad, overreaching immunity from civil liability during the current pandemic. I support, and provided, protections against liability for emergency and disaster services activities taken by health care practitioners under my May 6, 2020, executive order. However, this bill significantly expands these protections by limiting liability to various entities, including manufacturers, distributers, labelers and users of personal protective equipment, business services and covered providers. Shielding entities from liability in such a broad fashion as provided under this bill invites the potential for carelessness and a disregard for public safety.
Furthermore, COVID-19 immunity protections need to be paired with worker protections, including paid sick leave for employees. Providing immunity for a business that does not rigorously comply with public health orders does not ensure the safety of the public, its employees and is not in the public interest. At a time when the COVID-19 virus is spreading rapidly, we need to be taking measures to ensure compliance with public health orders and improve safety practices. We should not be providing protection for noncompliance or carelessness.”
The President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association stated in support of the Bill: “Shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies, as well as ever-changing guidance from state and federal regulatory agencies, have created a particularly unfair environment ripe for opportunistic legal action directly related to this emergency.”
A supervising lawyer at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia argued that the Bill would change the standards for proving liability: “We’re especially concerned because courts are the last line of oversight during the pandemic, since nursing home inspectors and other oversight agencies haven’t been able to have eyes in facilities during much of the time since March.”
Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver stated before the Governor’s veto of the Bill: “I am hopeful that the governor is listening and he will exercise his duty and veto this bill, because I cannot make that trip home with a clear conscience knowing that somebody who has been negligent and participant in an incubator of disease and death gets off scot-free.”
If you or a loved one may have a COVID-19 medical malpractice claim in the United States, you should promptly contact a COVID-19 medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your COVID-19 medical malpractice claim for you and represent you and/or your loved one in a COVID-19 medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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