Claims Against Nursing Homes for Inadequate COVID Infection Control Belong in State Court, Court Rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today unanimously affirmed a California federal district court decision, which held that wrongful death claims brought by the survivors of nursing home residents who died after being exposed to COVID-19 belong in state court. The case was brought by the survivors of Ricardo Saldana, a resident of Glenhaven Healthcare, alleging that the nursing home prohibited staff from wearing facial coverings and allowed workers it knew to be exposed to the coronavirus to continue to care for patients. The decision will govern similar cases in federal courts across the Western United States – including more than 50 pending appeals. The Saldanas’ case will now return to California state court to be litigated on the merits. Below are statements from the attorneys:

“From the earliest days of the pandemic, we knew that nursing home residents were particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Yet too many nursing homes failed to take that risk seriously. Today’s decision affirms what federal district courts around the country have consistently held: that nursing homes cannot blame the federal government for their own failures to take basic precautions and that, in enacting the PREP Act in 2005, Congress did not intend to deprive victims of the right to bring negligence claims in state court just because they arise during a pandemic. We hope that this decision brings an end to the parade of meritless copycat attempts of nursing homes trying to get these cases dismissed by federal courts.”

  • Adam Pulver, Public Citizen, lead appellate attorney for the Saldanas

“Today’s decision is a direct message to Glenhaven Healthcare that it cannot escape responsibility for patients in its care. If it had taken the most basic precautions, Mr. Saldana would be alive today, as the complaint explains. At a time when Mr. Saldana needed care most, Glenhaven put profits over the health and safety of its residents. We look forward to exposing its conduct and bringing justice to the Saldana family.”

  • Scott Glovsky, attorney for the Saldanas