New Arizona law protects against COVID liability claims

arizona state capitol AP
Posted at 5:45 PM, Apr 06, 2021

PHOENIX — Arizona joined 25 other states when Governor Doug Ducey signed into law the COVID Protection Bill. The Governor says it provides common-sense protections to frontline workers in healthcare, schools, and business.

But some consumer advocates and trial lawyers worry the new law will protect bad actors who flouted health care advice.

“This bill was originally about if you contracted COVID, and it morphed into what can you blame on COVID,” Janice Goldstein, the executive director of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association said.

Goldstein says the law requires a very high standard to prove a liability case.

“Clear and convincing evidence of willful misconduct and gross negligence. It’s an almost impossible standard to prove,” Goldstein said.

Bill O’Brien died last year from COVID. His daughter, Shannon Parys, discovered him barely alive, sitting alone in a chair when she peered through his window at the Tempe memory care facility where he lived.

Parys said she learned no one had been checking on him.

“If I hadn’t been there to call the ambulance my dad would have passed away in the night and we would have never known it was from COVID and being left there,” Parys said.

Parys is now suing the former owners of Westchester Memory care facility.

“We’re not going after the healthcare workers, we’re actually trying to hold accountable the long-term care facility. The people in charge at the top who basically didn’t protect our loved one,” Parys said.

She is not worried a court will throw out her lawsuit because of the state’s COVID Liability law. The bill’s author, State Senator Vince Leach (R) Pinal-Pima Counties District 11, doesn’t believe she should be concerned either.

“You need to show you took precautions applicable to your business,” Leach said.

Senator Leach says the law protects churches, social gatherings, schools, and healthcare providers who could become targets of sue and settle litigation because of COVID.

“It protects responsible actors who have acted reasonably and in good faith,” Leach said.