For Immediate Release
Contact: David Card
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) decries the language put forth in the immunity (“Liability Protection”) section of the fourth COVID package offered to the Senate yesterday. The bill purports to “…preserve the ability of individuals and businesses that have suffered real injury to obtain complete relief.”
In fact, the bill does the exact opposite. It would exacerbate challenges to obtaining critical treatment, remove support for those permanently injured or killed by the virus, and increase the potential for bankruptcy for the poor and poorly insured if it is passed as currently proposed.
The bill permits immunity from suit for a wide swath of public and private entities, including potentially public schools and many types of congregate care living facilities, for personal injury caused by exposure to the virus. The standard of proof required to sue is almost insurmountable. Very few suits would survive.
Immunity provides no incentive to improve conditions that resulted in avoidable death and no opportunity to learn lessons from what happened. Wrong-doers, even those who are negligent, escape civil responsibility under this bill which deprives people compensation for their suffering and for the loss of family members who died from COVID in these settings.
Many people with disabilities have no choice about where they receive services – public school students in districts that require in person attendance; children in state care; residents of nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, and group homes; and prisoners. Thousands of these individuals are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 because those facilities are infested with the virus.
If passed, this bill would cause these people to seek treatment at government expense, or go without treatment. Worse, there is no cure for COVID-19, so if they become ill, many people with disabilities who receive services in these settings will die or have additional lifelong disabilities for which they have no support.
“This bill is not about preventing lawsuits,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. “The bill quite literally chooses to sacrifice the lives of the poor and poorly insured, many of whom are black and people of color, to protect the profits of others.”
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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.