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Goins v. St. Elizabeth Medical Center

In this case, a patient brought claims alleging negligent medical care against a physician and the hospital where she was treated, as well as claims against two other defendants. As relevant here, the physician and hospital moved to dismiss on the theory that they were immune from liability under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act because the patient had received a COVID-19 vaccine. The district court denied the motion, concluding that PREP Act immunity did not apply because the patient’s allegations against them did not concern “administration or use” of a covered countermeasure, as is required for immunity under the PREP Act.

The physician and hospital appealed, making a new argument: that the PREP Act’s immunity provision applied to the injuries allegedly incurred during a diagnostic procedure performed by the physician, because unspecified doctors had remarked that the patient’s condition “could” have been a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine. Public Citizen filed an amicus brief addressing that argument and explaining that such remarks were not enough to establish the applicability of the PREP Act defense. In January 2024, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of immunity, adopting our reasoning and rejecting the immunity defense because the complaint did not allege a connection between the vaccine and the plaintiff’s injury.