New Law Provides Health Care Providers and Others Immunity from Civil Claims Related to COVID-19 Injuries or Deaths
April 22, 2021 – Arizona health care professionals and institutions, as well as businesses and governmental entities, are now protected against most civil claims related to COVID-19 injuries or deaths. SB 1377, signed by Governor Ducey on April 5, 2021, enacted two statutes that give limited immunity for specific acts or omissions during a state of emergency related to a public health pandemic.
- A.R.S. § 12-515 affords business owners civil immunity for any person or provider that acted in good faith to protect another person from COVID-19. The term “provider” is broad and includes healthcare professionals and institutions, landlords, businesses, employers, schools, nonprofits, religious institutions, and governmental entities.
- A.R.S. § 12-516 provides healthcare professionals and institutions immunity for injuries or deaths caused by the state’s response to COVID-19. This statute merely codifies the protections first extended to front-line licensed health care workers and volunteers in Executive Order 2020-27, issued April 9, 2020, which was most recently extended in Executive Order 2020-63 to March 31, 2021. Like those Executive Orders, the statute is time-limited in effect and covers only those claims through the end of 2022. Both laws apply retroactively to March 10, 2020.
SB 1377 sets a higher burden for plaintiffs seeking pandemic-related damages for injury, death, or property damage. It also creates a presumption that a person or provider acted in good faith if they adopted and implemented reasonable policies related to the public health pandemic. A plaintiff must show clear and convincing evidence that the defendant “failed to act or acted with willful misconduct or gross negligence,” to overcome that presumption.
The new law does not expressly define “reasonable policies.” However, it statesthat a health professional or institution is presumed to have acted in good faith if they reasonably attempted to comply with applicable published guidance from a federal or state agency relating to the public health pandemic.
Although SB 1377 strengthens protections against COVID-19 related claims, there will likely be legal challenges ahead because of the constitutional protections surrounding an individual’s right to sue for damages and the statute’s retroactive application.
SB 1377 is now Chapter 179 of the Arizona Session Laws of the current legislative session. A link is provided here.
For more information or questions, please contact any of our health care law attorneys listed below.