Liability for Violating State Statutes and Regulations
In the context of public health, one can see how a situation such as this could come into play with state statutes such as emergency quarantine orders. If, for example, a quarantine is administered by the state under state law, tort liability questions are answered through the specific quarantine exception of the state tort claims act. Other types of emergency procedures would normally be protected from tort liability by the broad discretionary function exceptions. But the discretionary exception to liability can be taken away by a narrow statute which leaves no room for choice or policy decision. This often occurs in the area of health inspections. See Gregor v. Argenot Great Central Ins. Co., 851 So. 2d 959 (La. 2003) (Department of Health held partly liable for wrongful death of restaurant patron who died as a result of eating raw oysters in a restaurant that failed to post mandatory warnings about the dangers of consuming raw shellfish).
The state law may also be reviewed if it violates provisions of the federal Constitution. For an emergency quarantine order, this likely would involve habeas corpus or Fourteenth Amendment Due Process of liberty. In the case of an emergency act or statute, courts are extremely unlikely to grant writs of habeas corpus or strike laws which could undermine public health. See Jacobsen v. Mass., 197 U.S. 11 (1905) (forced vaccination laws are not an unconstitutional invasion of liberty because the policy interest of the public's health outweighs the liberty interest of an individual). This is especially true when the law contains standards for operation. South Carolina's emergency health powers act contains procedures and standards for officials when an emergency quarantine is declared, such as living conditions for the quarantined and requirement for expedited judicial review. Such provisions enable the laws to pass constitutional muster.