Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently signed Senate Bill 1377 after a push from Republican legislators to limit civil liability exposure for “Good Samaritans” who have worked to protect and provide for Arizonans during the COVID-19 health crisis. The new law provides a shield from civil liability for certain individuals and institutions that act in good faith to protect others from injury, death, or loss resulting from the pandemic.
A “provider” is presumed to have acted in good faith if the provider relied on or reasonably attempted to comply with published guidance, such as that provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A civil action may not be brought against persons or providers identified below unless the claimant can demonstrate the person or provider acted (or failed to act) with willful misconduct or gross negligence. Furthermore, the claimant must establish the claim by “clear and convincing evidence.” This is a higher bar than the “preponderance of the evidence”—i.e., “more likely than not”—standard generally applied in civil cases.
Those “providers” protected by the law include:
- A person who furnishes consumer or business goods or services or entertainment;
- Educational institutions and school districts;
- Property owners;
- Nonprofit organizations;
- Religious institutions;
- State and local government agencies;
- Developmental disability service providers;
- Health care professionals; and
- Health care institutions.
Healthcare professionals and institutions acting in good faith cannot be held liable for injury or death sustained while providing an array of services related to the pandemic, such as screening, assessment, diagnosis, or treatment related to the virus. Additionally, they are protected from similar claims resulting from services that are not specifically COVID-related, such as delayed or cancelled nonurgent or elective surgery, or an act or omission relating to nursing care or by a healthcare provider due to a lack of staffing, facilities, equipment, supplies or other resources.
The protections established by the statute do not apply to workers’ compensation claims.
The relief provided is limited to claims for an act or omission that occurred between March 11, 2020 (when the public health emergency was declared) through December 31, 2022.
Arizona joins nearly two dozen other states in enacting temporary liability protections, some through executive order, thus giving the state legislatures time to act.