The North Carolina Supreme Court today agreed to review a Court of Appeals decision limiting the immunity enjoyed by healthcare professionals under a Covid-era statute.

In May 2020, the pandemic was raging. Our General Assembly leapt into action, unanimously passing the “Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act.” The Act offered “broad protect[ion]” to healthcare professionals treating patients during the Covid emergency, which “ended” (for purposes of the Act) in August 2022. The Act stopped short of immunizing providers from charges of gross negligence, or for services having nothing to do with Covid.

What kinds of allegations of gross negligence are sufficient for a plaintiff to overcome that immunity? And how “Covid-related” do the medical services need to be to trigger the protections of the Act?

In Land v. Whitley, decided a few months ago, a panel of the Court of Appeals addressed both these questions. First, the panel held that there was no special pleading requirement here to allege gross negligence; the normal Rule 8 “notice” standard was enough. Second, the panel held that defendants must show “a causal link between the impact of COVID-19 and [a patient’s] care of treatment” to enjoy immunity from suit. For these reasons, the panel denied the defendant healthcare providers’ motion to dismiss.

On petition of the defendants, our Supreme Court granted further review of the case. Arguments are expected in the fall.

Stay tuned–this one could have wide-reaching consequences.