Missouri Protects Health Care Providers from Civil Actions Relating to COVID-19 Exposure

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On July 7, 2021, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed SB 51 into law, which protects health care providers from being held liable in civil actions for COVID-19 exposure (the “Act”). These protections are extended to health care providers, manufacturers, and others who may have altered their practices to accommodate the changing needs of patients, customers, and individuals during the COVID-19 crisis. SB 51 amends chapter 537, RSMo, by adding broad sweeping measures, including:

  • Limiting liability for COVID-19 exposure claims unless a claimant can prove that a health care provider engaged in reckless or willful misconduct that caused an actual exposure and resulted in personal injury. An elective procedure that is delayed for good cause shall not be considered recklessness or willful misconduct.
  • Shortening statute of limitations. Specifically, a claimant may not commence a COVID-19 medical liability action in any Missouri court beyond one year after the discovery of the alleged harm, damage, breach, or tort unless tolled for proof of fraud, intentional concealment, or the presence of a foreign body, which has no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose or effect.
  • Limiting potential punitive damages that may be awarded in any COVID-19 related action to an amount not exceeding nine times the amount of compensatory damages.

Additionally, SB 51 creates a new cause of action replacing any such common law cause of action and preempts and supersedes any state law related to the recovery for personal injuries covered under a COVID-19 related action unless state law imposes stricter limits on damages or liabilities for personal injury. The provisions of the Act do not expand any liability or limit any defense otherwise available and will expire four years after the effective date.

To see the Current Bill Summary, click here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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