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Martin v. Petersen Health Operations, LLC

Marlene Hill, a resident of an Illinois nursing home called Bloomington Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, died of COVID-19 in May 2020. Her daughter Anita Martin filed a lawsuit in Illinois state court alleging that Bloomington Rehab’s failure to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among its residents resulted in Ms. Martin’s mother’s death.

Bloomington Rehab removed the case from state court to federal court. Among other things, it argued that the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, a statute enacted in 2005 to encourage the production and distribution of vaccines, “completely preempted” Ms. Martin’s claims and thus provided a basis for federal-court jurisdiction. The district court disagreed, held that there was no federal-court jurisdiction over Ms. Martin’s state-law claims, and remanded the case to state court. Bloomington Rehab appealed the remand order to the Seventh Circuit.

Public Citizen filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff on appeal, explaining that Ms. Martin’s state-law claims do not fall within the scope of the PREP Act. In June 2022, in a short opinion, the court of appeals agreed and affirmed the district court’s decision remanding the case to state court.