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Cuomo signs bill limiting coronavirus-related malpractice immunity

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during a

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during a news conference in Washington on May 27. Credit: AP / Jacquelyn Martin

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a bill passed by the State Legislature that limits the malpractice immunity he provided to hospitals and nursing homes during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Cuomo had issued an executive order in March, followed by a law passed in the state budget deal in April, that had granted hospitals and nursing homes immunity from malpractice claims in all but the most egregious cases over gross negligence or criminal acts. The bill Cuomo signed a bill Monday limits the immunity only to COVID-19 cases going forward, leaving in place the broader immunity from March to now.

The Trial Lawyers Association, which handles civil suits, lobbied to amend the immunity, saying it provided politically powerful hospitals with protection at the expense of individuals who were harmed.

Cuomo has said immunity was necessary to attract thousands of health care professionals out of retirement and from other states who didn’t have active New York licenses to help staff hospitals and nursing homes during the height of the crisis.

The Greater New York Hospital Association on April 2 announced that it had “drafted and aggressively advocated for this legislation,” but Cuomo and his aides say the association did not influence the immunity decision.

The trial lawyers' group, which is also a major lobbying force in Albany, said the new measure takes “critical action to protect the rights of all New Yorkers.

“No one seeking care, whether it’s delivering a baby, undergoing surgery or feeling unwell should be put at needless risk,” said Edward Steinberg, president of the group. “During this challenging time, we must work together to keep each other safe. This legislation is a step in the right direction toward a safer and healthier New York.”

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