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Legal Immunity Would Block Accountability for Negligence


Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a daily tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. Also refer to our tipsheet on misleading claims from industry groups and conservative lawmakers. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

LONG ISLAND WOMAN WHOSE MOTHER DIED SUES NURSING HOME FOR GROSS NEGLIGENCE: A Long Island woman is suing the nursing home where her mother contracted the coronavirus and later died for gross negligence, according to WABC TV. Vivian Zayas said federal health authorities warned officials at Our Lady of Consolation Nursing and Rehabilitative Care Center in West Islip, N.Y., in early February of the coronavirus, but the facility failed to safeguard its patients. According to the New York State Department of Health, 39 people died at the nursing home related to COVID-19. Federal officials cited the nursing home 31 times between 2018-2019 for violating standards of care, including failing to have proper infection control procedures. “We have to be able to hold these places accountable,” Zayas said. We concur.

NURSING HOME RETALIATES AGAINST WHISTLEBLOWERS: Life Care Centers of America Inc. presided over one of the first and deadliest U.S. outbreaks of the coronavirus at its nursing home in Kirkland, Wash. – with 45 deaths linked to the facility, Reuters reported. And now a nursing home owned by Life Care has fired a nurse and banned another from the premises after the two were quoted in a Reuters investigation detailing horrific conditions, a staff exodus and a botched management response to the facility’s deadly COVID-19 outbreak. Nursing homes should not get immunity from lawsuits for practices that put workers and residents at risk – or for retaliating against whistleblowers who try to warn the public about dangers.

RESTAURANTS HAVE NO OBLIGATION TO DISCLOSE COVID-19 INFECTIONS TO DINERS: Texas now has more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases and climbing, and dozens of Houston-area restaurants have temporarily closed after employees tested positive for the illness. However some restaurants won’t say if their employees have caught COVID-19, and there are no federal, state or local rules requiring them to do so. If restaurants have no responsibility to tell patrons if other customers or staff contract COVID-19, they should not get legal immunity for endangering clientele or workers.

VIRGINIA PROPOSES COVID-19 WORKER SAFETY RULES, A NATIONAL FIRST: Prompted in large part by the inaction and lack of enforcement by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Virginia has proposed its own set of COVID-19 safety rules that companies must implement to protect workers from infection – a first in the country. The temporary emergency safety rules were drafted by the state’s Department of Labor and Industry, under direction from Gov. Ralph Northam and will be voted on by the state’s 14-member health and safety board on Wednesday. Safe practices are the key to combating the pandemic and ensuring a safe and sustainable recovery, not giving businesses immunity from lawsuits.