COVID-19, Volunteers, Pandemic, Planning, Compliance


How best to utilize volunteers[1] during medical emergencies is an essential part of hospital compliance planning. Onboarding recruited and spontaneous volunteers during crisis situations require careful consideration of multiple legal issues. Volunteer planning becomes more complex if volunteers move across state lines because applicable tort immunity statutes,[2] compensation limits,[3]and workers compensation regimes vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. Effective planning for volunteers requires these and other issues to be addressed well in advance of actual emergencies. Although predicting the scope or severity of any future crisis is impossible, the provided checklist of management best practices should facilitate enhanced care, decreased risk, and lowered costs.

[1] Mark A. Hager & Jeffrey L. Brudney, Balancing Act: The Challenges and Benefits of Volunteers, The Urban Inst. (Dec. 2004), https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/Balancing_Act.pdf [https://perma.cc/A6M8-DM53].

[2] In Virginia, nonprofits are immune from suits by beneficiaries alleging negligence absent a finding of corporate negligence or failure to exercise ordinary care in the selection of employees or volunteers. Va. Code Ann. § 44-146.23 (2009). Wyoming limits charitable immunity only if a nonprofit provides services without charge Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-125 (2017).

[3] Colorado limits judgments against non-profits to the extent of existing insurance coverage. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 7-123-105 (2004). Massachusetts has a cap of $20,000 for torts committed while engaged in acts to directly accomplish the charitable purposes of the organization. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 85K (2012). South Carolina limits awards to $250,000 in actions for injury or death caused by the tort of an agent, servant, employee, or officer of charitable organizations. S.C. Code Ann. § 33-56-180 (2000). Texas operational tort liability is $500,000 per person and $1,000,000 per event but does not extend to hospitals. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 84.006 (1987).