University of Miami Business Law Review

Document Type



As the coronavirus pandemic intensified, many communities in the U.S. experienced shortages of ventilators, ICU beds, and other medical supplies and treatment. There was no single national response providing guidance on the allocation of scarce healthcare resources. There has been no consistent state response either. Instead, various governmental and nongovernmental state actors in several but not all states formulated “triage protocols,” known as Crisis Standards of Care, to prioritize patient access to care where population demand exceeded supply. One intended purpose of the protocols was to immunize or shield healthcare providers from tort liability based on injuries resulting from a medical decision rationing access to care. Research shows that various state protocols have been implemented to this end by either executive order issued by the governor; state legislation; or action by individual hospital ethics boards. This paper examines a legal question of first impression: Whether the right to institute suit for pandemic related healthcare injuries can be constitutionally eliminated using state triage protocol immunity provisions passed by executive order or state statute during the pandemic. The paper concludes that healthcare providers may still be subject to some legal liability depending upon each state’s unique constitutional grant of powers to the executive and legislative branches and the dictates of the Fourteenth Amendment.