PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey today signed legislation to ensure Arizonans acting in good faith during the COVID-19 pandemic are protected against frivolous civil claims.
Health care professionals, businesses, schools, nonprofits, governments, religious institutions, and property owners are among the entities to which the legislation applies.
“Arizona’s health care professionals and others on the front lines have worked day and night this last year to protect sick individuals and vulnerable populations,” said Governor Ducey. “We have taken steps to protect both health care heroes and vulnerable Arizonans during the pandemic, and today’s legislation strengthens those protections. My thanks to Senator Vince Leach for leading on this bill.”
Senate Bill (SB) 1377, sponsored by Senator Leach, fulfills a State of the State priority of the Governor’s to protect Arizonans from “frivolous lawsuits.” It provides the legal framework for when a liability claim can be brought in relation to COVID-19 while still ensuring that claims based on gross negligence and wilful misconduct can be heard.
The legislation applies during the current public health pandemic and protects health care institutions and other service providers for any act or omission that is alleged to have occurred during a person's screening, assessment or treatment that is related to the health emergency. Providers include educational institutions, school districts or charter schools, property owners, lessees and lessors, nonprofit organizations, religious institutions, the State and local governments, health care providers and institutions, and nursing and residential care facilities.
The legislation also provides a presumption for health professionals or health care institutions that they have acted in good faith if they relied on and reasonably attempted to comply with applicable published guidance, while also ensuring that such a presumption can be overcome if there is evidence of gross negligence or wilful misconduct.
“Small businesses need certainty under the law that if they act in good faith, they’ll be protected from frivolous lawsuits,” said Senator Leach. “I’m grateful to the organizations and fellow legislators who supported Senate Bill 1377, and to Governor Ducey for signing this important legislation.”
The Governor on April 9, 2020 issued an Executive Order to help boost medical staffing levels and provide certainty and “Good Samaritan” liability protections to health care professionals serving on the front lines. The order provides protections to health care professionals treating patients during the COVID-19 health emergency, while also protecting patients against negligence or reckless misconduct. The order was extended on June 25 and December 31, 2020. SB 1377 aligns with the Governor’s “Good Samaritan” protections.