Nursing Home Operator Requests SCOTUS to Hear COVID-Related Case

doctor and stethoscopeGlenhaven Healthcare, a nursing home operator based in California, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether a COVID-19 liability case covered under the PREP Act should be decided in state or federal court. According to a Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer, this case revolves around a COVID-19 wrongful death claim. Glenhaven contends that the claim is covered under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act and should be decided in federal court. SCOTUS’ decision on whether to hear the case could determine whether similar cases covered by the PREP Act will be decided on the state or federal level, per a Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer.

In 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to provide health care providers immunity during times of a national emergency. Many believe that the rash of COVID-related lawsuits will be the first great test that the PREP Act will undergo. Glenhaven endorses that the PREP act strips state courts of their jurisdiction to hear cases related to public health emergencies. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that the lawsuit, which centers on a resident’s COVID-19 related nursing home death, belongs in state court. Now, Glenhaven is asking the Supreme Court to provide an opinion on the case.

PREP Act Standards and Evidence of Intent

Health care providers cite the PREP Act as providing a federal defense and immunity from lawsuits from action taken to avert a public health emergency. However, some argue that this defense only applies to plaintiffs who are seeking damages from actual use of a covered countermeasure. There is murkiness in whether an alleged negligent failure is covered under the term “use.” For example, if a nursing home failed to provide staff and residents with masks and other personal protective equipment due to supply issues, is the provider eligible for an immunity defense under the PREP Act? Glenhaven would like this question answered in federal court to help guide uniform, national standards throughout the U.S.

In its petition for review, Glenhaven has advocated that the PREP Act strips state courts of jurisdiction in this case. States are currently able to consider cases based on state law. However, Glenhaven believes that public health emergency law cases should be decided only in federal courts. When combined with three additional PREP Act passages, Glenhaven claims that the provisions validate federal cause for action for injuries caused by willful misconduct. And, that they establish a fund for non-fault compensation for claims without willful misconduct.

Another case now in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is posing a similar question, and other courts have returned cases to states based on a basis of willful versus non-willful misconduct. Plaintiffs and providers are seeking resolution on the proper court for these cases, as individual cases against nursing homes and other health care providers are still being decided in both state and federal courts.

Attempt to Shirk Liability?

Nursing home neglect lawyers are dubious of Glenhaven’s intentions to apply the PREP Act in this manner. They view it as an attempt by negligent nursing homes to immunize themselves from liability when they failed to take prudent and reasonable actions to protect fragile residents.

Will Supreme Court Review Case?

At this point, it is unknown whether the Supreme Court will add this case to their docket or make any types of decisions related to these arguments. Some Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm believe that this case has a reasonable chance in being heard by SCOTUS. The eventual decision regarding this case may in fact set the stage on the interpretation and application of the PREP Act for future public health emergencies.

Contact the Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm, LLC

Nursing home litigation is a complicated process that requires an in-depth understand of both federal and state regulations. If your loved one has suffered an injury in a nursing home, you want a lawyer who has years of experience in this type of litigation. The nursing home neglect lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm, LLC understand the legal complexities of these cases. We offer a free consultation to review your case and discuss your legal options. Our goal is to get you the best result possible. Call 215-666-7777 or send us a message via the online form today.


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