Federal Appellate Court Remands Nursing Home COVID-19 Death Case To State Court

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in its opinion dated February 22, 2022 that a nursing home claim involving a death due to COVID-19 belonged in state court rather than in federal court, affirming the district court’s order remanding a removed case to state court for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction.

Relatives of Ricardo Saldana, who allegedly died from COVID-19 at Glenhaven Healthcare nursing home, sued Glenhaven and other defendants in California state court, alleging state-law causes of action based on the allegation that Glenhaven failed to adequately protect Saldana. Glenhaven removed the case to federal court.

Affirming the district court’s order granting plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case to state court, the appellate court panel rejected Glenhaven’s argument that the district court had three grounds for federal jurisdiction. First, the panel held that the district court lacked jurisdiction under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442, because Glenhaven did not act under a federal officer or agency’s directions when it complied with mandatory directives to nursing homes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Glenhaven’s status as a critical infrastructure entity did not establish that it acted as a federal officer or agency, or that it carried out a government duty.

Second, the panel held that plaintiffs’ claims were not completely preempted by the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which provides immunity from suit when the HHS Secretary determines that a threat to health constitutes a public health emergency, but provides an exception to this immunity for an exclusive federal cause of action for willful misconduct. In March 2020, the Secretary issued a declaration under the PREP Act “to provide liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19.” The panel held that the HHS Office of General Counsel’s Advisory Opinion on complete preemption was not entitled to Chevron deference because it was an opinion on federal court jurisdiction. Instead, the panel applied the two-part test set forth in City of Oakland v. BP PLC, 969 F.3d 895 (9th Cir. 2020). The panel concluded that in enacting the PREP Act, Congress did not intend to displace the non-willful misconduct claims brought by plaintiffs related to the public health emergency, nor did it provide substitute causes of action for plaintiffs’ claims. Thus, the federal statutory scheme was not so comprehensive that it entirely supplanted state law causes of action.

Third, the panel held that the district court did not have jurisdiction under the embedded federal question doctrine, under which federal jurisdiction over a state law claim will lie if a federal issue is necessarily raised, actually disputed, substantial, and capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress.

Source Saldana v. Glenhaven Healthcare, No. 20-56194.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or death) while a resident of a nursing home in the United States due to an infection acquired in a nursing home such as COVID-19, nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, or nursing home fraud, you should promptly contact a local nursing home COVID-19 claim attorney in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and file a COVID-19 nursing home claim on your behalf, if appropriate.

Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers (nursing home claim lawyers) in your U.S. state who may assist you with your nursing home claim, or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959.

Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 at 5:21 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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