Director, Legislative Affairs
Deputy Director, Alabama Medical PAC (ALAPAC)
Medical Association of the State of Alabama
334-261-2000 (o) | 334-462-7304 (c)
Gov. Ivey Provides Physicians Liability Protection from COVID-19 Lawsuits
On Friday, May 8, Governor Kay Ivey issued an executive order protecting physicians, their staff, and their practices from lawsuits related to COVID-19. The governor’s order, the eighth such supplemental emergency order issued by her administration since the pandemic began, provides a “safe harbor” for services affected by COVID-19 or Alabama’s response to the pandemic and from other COVID-19 related claims.
“As one of many Alabamians on the front lines of this pandemic, I thank Gov. Ivey for working with the Medical Association to provide this much-needed liability protection for these unprecedented circumstances affecting care provisions that are far beyond any of our control,” Medical Association President John Meigs, Jr., M.D., said.
The order provides immunity for treatment that resulted from, was negatively affected by or was done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or the State’s response to the pandemic unless proven by clear and convincing evidence that a health professional acted with wanton, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct – a standard significantly higher than simple negligence. Importantly, the liability protections in today’s order apply retroactively to March 13, 2020, and will remain in place until the COVID-19 public health emergency is terminated.
Protecting physicians, their staff, and medical practices from COVID-19 lawsuits has been a priority of the Medical Association since Alabama entered a state of emergency in mid-March. In addition to the governor’s office, the Association has worked with multiple other organizations on today’s order and appreciates the expertise of the Birmingham law firm of Starnes, Davis and Florie during those negotiations. That summary is available here.
The Birmingham law firm Starnes Davis Florie summarizes Governor Ivey’s Liability Protection from COVID Lawsuits
MAY 8, 2020 EXECUTIVE ORDER
On May 8, 2020, Governor Ivey signed a supplemental Executive Order providing
liability protections for health care providers for certain health care services that are
affected by the COVID-19 pandemic or the State’s response to the pandemic and from
other COVID-19 related claims. To summarize, the Executive Order:
- Provides immunity for treatment that resulted from, was negatively affected by, or
was done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or the State’s response to the
pandemic unless proven by clear and convincing evidence that a provider acted with
wanton, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct—i.e. a standard higher than
- Provides immunity for COVID-19 related claims, including, but not limited to, the
contraction or alleged exposure to COVID-19 on the premises of a health care
provider and claims from a provider’s efforts to prevent or delay the spread of
COVID-19 unless proven by clear and convincing evidence that the provider acted
with wanton, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct.
- Provides immunity to any university or public institution of higher education in the
State of Alabama for the “design, manufacture, distribution, allowance, use, or
nonuse” of PPE and the “design or manufacture of testing materials done under the
direction of ADPH and in accordance with ADPH’s specifications unless proven by
clear and convincing evidence that such act was done with wanton, reckless, willful,
or intentional misconduct.
- Prohibits claims for mental anguish, emotional distress or punitive damages in a
personal injury case where there is no “serious physical injury”—i.e. a death or
injury that requires either in-patient hospitalization of at least 48 hours, permanent
impairment of a bodily function, or permanent damage to a body structure.
Therefore, in situations where liability could attach and there is no “serious physical
injury,” the provider would only be liable for economic, compensatory damages in
a personal injury case.
- Allows claims for punitive damages in a wrongful death case where liability could
- Operates in conjunction with any other applicable Alabama Executive Orders and
State or Federal laws pertinent to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Does not affect the right of any person to receive or claim benefits otherwise
available under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
- Applies retroactively to March 13, 2020—the date the Governor declared the State
public health emergency—and would last until the State COVID-19 public health
emergency is terminated.
- Applies retroactively for COVID-19 related negligence, premises liability, or any
non-wanton, non-willful or non-intentional civil claims predating March 13, 2020
unless proven by clear and convincing evidence that the provider did not reasonably
attempt to comply with the then applicable public health guidance.
*No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.