State Pandemic Lawsuits Proceed against NJ Nursing Homes:

Rejecting the operator’s claim that pandemic lawsuits should be heard in federal court, a federal appeals court ruled that the negligence claims brought against two New Jersey nursing homes should proceed in state courts, according to a recent Reuters article.

The nursing homes in question, operating during the height of the coronavirus pandemic as Andover Subacute & Rehabilitation I & II (recently renamed the “Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center”), came into the public eye when the bodies of 17 victims of COVID-19 were found crammed into a morgue meant for no more than four bodies. Over 90 residents died by April of 2020 at these facilities. The cases filed against these homes were brought by the families of four of these residents, who allege that negligence by the facilities allowed for the spread of the coronavirus.

Filed in state court in April of 2020, these cases were hindered from proceeding by the question of the appropriate court to hear them. The nursing home operator claimed that, due to the far-reaching aspects of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, the emergency federal law that guards those battling the pandemic from lawsuits, the cases against the homes belonged in federal court. A lower federal court disagreed, leading the nursing home to appeal. On October 20, the state pandemic lawsuits proceed against NJ nursing homes; the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld the ruling of the lower court, maintaining that the claims best belong in state court.

According to the article, other nursing homes have also cited the PREP Act when faced with wrongful death claims related to the pandemic. Enacted in 2005, the PREP Act was intended to shield from lawsuits critical players in an a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic—such as manufacturers of PPE, drug distributors, vaccine developers, and more. Operating on the front line of the pandemic—over 100,000 people died in nursing homes from COVID-19—nursing homes argued that the PREP Act ought to protect them, too. The 3rd Circuit Court has ruled that it is up to state courts to determine whether this law shields nursing homes from pandemic-related lawsuits; however, federal appeals by other nursing homes facing COVID lawsuits are still pending.

In the meantime, the 3rd Circuit’s ruling may advance other cases against nursing homes that claim such instances of COVID nursing home neglect as:

  • Placing residents with symptoms of COVID-19 in rooms with non-symptomatic residents
  • Undocumented COVID symptoms in residents
  • Poor pandemic hygiene and disinfection practices
  • Insufficient PPE protection for staff members

Securing Nursing Home Safety for Your Loved One

Your loved one’s Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home is required to meet every criterion in matters of hygiene as well as all other qualifications for safety. If you’re concerned about the quality of a Philadelphia/PA or NJ facility or you suspect neglect or abuse has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.