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State ex rel. Clinton No. 1 v. Baker

In November 2020, Clinton Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center placed a COVID-19-positive roommate in Mary Gray’s room, without following relevant infection control protocols. Soon thereafter, Ms. Gray contracted COVID-19 and died. Her daughter, Donna Yarnell, then brought a wrongful death action against Clinton. Clinton Healthcare moved to dismiss Ms. Yarnell’s claim, claiming that three statutes gave it immunity: (1) the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, (2) a Missouri statute providing limited immunity to those “deployed” by state government to provide care required by an emergency, and (3) the Missouri COVID-19 Liability Protections Act (MCLPA), a 2021 law limiting recovery in certain COVID-19 related actions to situations involving recklessness or willful misconduct. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and the Missouri Supreme Court agreed to consider Clinton Healthcare’s interlocutory appeal.

Public Citizen represented Ms. Yarnell in the Missouri Supreme Court. Our brief explained that the PREP Act has no application to Ms. Yarnell’s claim because her mother’s death was not an injury caused by “the administration to or use by an individual of a countermeasure,” as is required to fall within the statute’s scope. In addition, we explained that the Missouri immunity for those “deployed” by the state government did not apply because the care that Clinton Healthcare provided (or failed to provide) to Ms. Gray was not the result of any such “deployment” and because the MCLPA did not apply retroactively to Ms. Yarnell’s claim. In March 2024, the Missouri Supreme Court quashed its preliminary writ of mandamus and allowed the case to proceed. The court agreed with us that neither the PREP Act nor either of the two state statutes on which the facility relied required dismissal.