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Duty of Care: Attendee Health and Safety for Future Events

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

As we slowly begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high likelihood that public health and safety of attendees will be much higher on the priority list for future events.

Patrick Gahagan, Vice President of Customer Development for InHouse Physicians, joined the DMC Coalition to discuss what their organization has provided and continues to provide in the past, present and for the future of events.

Created nearly 30 years ago, InHouse Physicians is an organization that provides access to convenient, high-quality medical care for attendees with acute healthcare needs at corporate meetings and events.

When planning future events, there are two important considerations regarding the health and safety of attendees at your programs: duty of care and risk mitigation.

Duty of Care

In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation which is imposed on an individual or entity requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence.

Pertaining to DMC’s, it is the question of what a DMC’s duty of care is to the program attendees versus what InHouse Physicians’ – or other similar companies – duty of care is to program attendees?

“When clients hire us, they have now outsourced the entire duty of care to InHouse physicians,” says Patrick. “That is our responsibility and you should hold us accountable for that, because that is what we do and what we do every day.”

Risk Mitigation

During the pandemic, many DMC’s have wondered if they were responsible for that duty of care to provide a safe and healthy environment for the attendees of a meeting or event, especially as it relates to an event occurring during the pandemic.

Aside from certain states throughout the U.S. that have enacted specific legislation to limit an event planner’s exposure to liability, there is no law that definitively answers that question.

But by way of retaining a professional healthcare company, like InHouse Physicians, the duty of care, arguably, transfers to them and the burden to provide the necessary services to create a safe and healthy environment shifts away from the DMC.

A DMC that chooses not to employ the services of such a provider may be assuming that burden and, if a program attendee later alleges that they contracted COVID-19 at their event, that DMC may be sued and, even worse off, found liable for failing to uphold the duty of care.

If clients are reluctant to add these costs in their program budgets, then it is further recommended to require the client to agree to more robust indemnification language in the event service agreement or require attendees to sign a waiver of liability.

Certifications or Accreditations

Facts and circumstances that, arguably, further place the DMC in a difficult position are certifications or accreditations for being COVID-19 compliant or educated. This fact could further support a program attendee’s prospective claim against a DMC because that DMC held itself out as an “expert” or “qualified professional” that maintains a heightened degree of service or knowledge.

Essentially, a failure on behalf of a DMC to provide a healthy and safe environment to conduct a meeting or event may add insult to injury if that DMC possesses one of these certificates or accreditations.

Today's Tip: The bottom line is that the health and safety of attendees at in-person events is of the utmost importance and the way in which a DMC manages that fact will vary.

It is recommended that DMCs avoid assuming responsibility for healthcare services and delegate that matter to medical professionals. In doing so, they increase value to the program and reduce liability.

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