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Nava v. Renew Health Group

In May 2020, Florentina Lopez died of COVID-19 at Parkwest Rehabilitation Center, a California nursing home owned and operated by Renew Health Group. Her surviving daughter, Griselda Nava, then filed a lawsuit against Parkwest in California state court, alleging that her mother’s death was the result of Parkwest’s failure to take basic safety precautions in response to the threat of the coronavirus. She alleged that Parkwest failed to implement screening, isolation, or testing policies until months into the pandemic, and allowed exposed and infected staff to continue working and interacting with vulnerable patients. She also alleged that Parkwest lied to her and others about the presence of COVID-19 in the facility and about her mother’s health condition.

Citing 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a), the federal-officer removal statute, Parkwest removed the case from state court to federal court. Parkwest claimed that it was “acting under” the direction of a federal officer when operating its nursing homes because it was subject to heavy regulation as part of its participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and because the federal government had issued guidance on infection control in nursing homes. It also 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. Nava’s claims and thus provided a basis for federal-court jurisdiction. In April 2021, the district court rejected Parkwest’s arguments and remanded the case to state court. Parkwest appealed the remand order to the Ninth Circuit.

Public Citizen represents Ms. Nava on appeal. In April 2022, we filed a motion for summary affirmance of the district court’s decision in light of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Saldana v. Glenhaven Healthcare.