The following letter to the editor by ITLA President Larry R. Rogers, Jr was submitted to the Chicago Tribune in response to an editorial.
A recent editorial (Gov. Pritzker, protect ‘health care heroes’ from excess litigation; March 3, 2021), which imagines an impending wave of COVID-related lawsuits and argues that nursing homes and health care facilities should enjoy virtual immunity from civil liability, is misplaced and inconsistent with the facts.
COVID-19 has claimed nearly 10,000 lives in Illinois nursing homes and countless others have suffered harm from isolation and neglect. Any liability-shielding measures enacted into law would only act to excuse long-term care facilities from nearly all instances of negligence or wrongdoing that harm residents during the pandemic – including those instances unrelated to COVID-19.
Proposals to block nursing homes or other health care facilities from accountability would place hundreds of thousands of current and future nursing home residents at risk of harm or death. These institutions would no longer have any incentive to take reasonable steps to protect patients – and they couldn’t be penalized if they failed to take those precautionary measures.
The facts simply do not support the notion that nursing homes and health care facilities are facing a “threat of mass litigation.” As of March 3, 2021, an analysis of national court data shows that only a small fraction of total cases filed have been related to COVID-19 injuries and/or deaths in Illinois. In fact, there have only been 383 total cases filed in Illinois courts related to COVID-19, and of those only nine complaints filed are classified as being related to the health/medical field.
The truth is that the overall number of civil lawsuits filed has dropped 46 percent since 2010. The number of medical malpractice lawsuits is down 39 percent since 2003.
Curtailing the ability of individuals harmed to seek justice for acts of negligence or wrongdoing will only increase infection rates, make patients less safe and prolong the pandemic because nursing homes and health care facilities will know they can act with impunity and without accountability – even when those actions fail to protect the health and safety of their residents or patients.
Larry R. Rogers, Jr.
President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association