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Fowler v. Hopman

In July 2020, Gerald Hopman died of complications stemming from COVID-19 while in a nursing home in California. His daughter, Jessica Hopman, filed suit in California state court asserting only state-law claims based on the nursing home’s negligence in moving Hopman from a single-person apartment to a shared room in another part of the facility where the nursing home was not taking adequate safety precautions to protect residents against COVID-19, and for failing to ensure that he received appropriate care and treatment after he contracted COVID-19. In its defense, the nursing home argued that her claims are subject to defenses set forth in the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), 42 U.S.C. § 247d-6d, which apply to certain claims relating to the “use” or “administration” of certain “covered countermeasures.”

After six months of litigation in California, including two attempts by the nursing home to remove the case to federal court and an unsuccessful state-court motion seeking to dismiss the case based on the PREP Act, the nursing home filed a declaratory judgment action in federal district court in the District of Columbia in an attempted end-run around the case pending in California. Public Citizen represents Hopman in the DC case.

In March 2021, we filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Hopman because she has no contacts with the District of Columbia, and that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because a federal defense does not give rise to federal-question jurisdiction. The motion also argues that the Court should exercise its discretion to decline to decide this case because the same issues are being litigated in an earlier-filed case in California. On April 2, 2021, we filed our reply memorandum in support of our motion to dismiss. On April 22, 2021, the nursing home dismissed its complaint.