Pritzker’s order shielding health care workers from lawsuits amid pandemic could face challenge

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order shielding health care workers from some COVID-19 related malpractice suits could be challenged months after the pandemic ends, legal reform advocates said.

The order, executed on April 1, shields most health care workers, facilities, volunteers and other first responders from “civil liability for any injury or death alleged to have been caused by any act or omission” unless gross negligence, meaning blatant disregard, is proven.

“We applaud Gov. Pritzker and his efforts to protect those on the front lines in the fight against this deadly virus from civil liability,” said John Pastuovic, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League.

The Illinois Civil Justice League, acting on recommendations from the American Tort Reform Association, wants the Illinois General Assembly to follow New York’s lead to enshrine the governor’s protections into law.

“He has done the right thing by these heroes; however, we are concerned that once this crisis has passed, plaintiffs’ lawyers and judges will try to invalidate his executive order,” Pastuovic said. “This type of executive action has not been tested in court, and we fully expect plaintiffs’ lawyers to mount a challenge.”

If they succeed, Pastuovic said that health care providers and facilities could find themselves facing lawsuits. Lawsuits ultimately end up increasing costs, he said.

“It’s ultimately the consumer that pays,” he said. “Either in taxes, in fees, or in some cases, in lost jobs and wages.”

Two days after Pritzker’s executive order was signed, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation included in that state’s annual budget that did much of the same. Virginia had a similar law in place before the virus outbreak.

A law, Pastuovic said, would provide stronger protection from legal challenges.

“New York recognized this potential problem and swiftly enacted legislation to codify their governor’s action to protect health care providers from liability. We are recommending that the Illinois General Assembly do the same,” he said.

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