Court Uses COVID-19 Immunity Provisions To Dismiss Med Mal Claim
Foley, Baron, Metzger & Juip attorneys secured the dismissal of a medical malpractice case in Wayne County Circuit Court on May 4, 2022, using state and federal COVID-19 immunity provisions. This is believed to be among the first successful uses of state and federal COVID-19 immunity protections since they were put in place two years ago to protect hospitals and their providers.
All health systems and providers should be familiar with these immunity defenses regarding care provided to patients with COVID-19. As two years have passed since COVID-19 first arose, more claims are being filed that relate to care provided during the time when providers were immunized from medical malpractice lawsuits. This is a fact-intensive defense that should be carefully analyzed and hinges on the care at issue being related to the treatment of COVID-19.
Michigan’s Pandemic Health Care Immunity Act states that those providing health care services in response to COVID-19 (from March 29, 2020 – July 14, 2020) are not liable for claims of negligence, only willful conduct, gross negligence, or criminal misconduct. The federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) also granted immunity to healthcare professionals who used treatments to fight COVID-19.
In the case decided last week, a 38-year-old patient was admitted to the hospital on March 28, 2020, with complaints of abdominal pain. After discharge, he returned to the hospital hours later and was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease failure, pneumonia, nausea, vomiting, and SARS associated COVID-19. COVID-19 is known to present increased risks to patients with compromised immune systems and kidney ailments. A Quinton catheter was inserted into the patient’s femoral artery for dialysis, and he was discharged on April 15, 2020. On April 17, 2020, the patient returned to the hospital with the Quinton catheter intact but dirty. Plaintiff alleged that the Defendants had negligently discharged the patient from the hospital with the catheter still inserted. Defendant asserts that the patient left the hospital before staff could remove the catheter.
In granting Defendants’ motion, the Court found all requirements for the immunity provided under both the Pandemic Health Care Immunity Act and the PREP Act were met – the patient tested positive for COVID-19 during his hospitalization, he was still positive for COVID-19 at the time of discharge, and according to the Court, the insertion of the Quinton catheter was considered a treatment to COVID-19 that fell under the state and federal statutes.
This order may give some Plaintiffs and their attorneys pause when determining whether to pursue a medical malpractice claim if it arises from care during the first few months of the pandemic. Still, hospitals and providers should have these immunity defenses ready to assert if such claims are filed.