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October 29, 2021

Third Circuit Holds that Nursing Home Covid-19 Cases Belong in State Courts

On October 20, the Third Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction a group of wrongful-death actions alleging that different New Jersey nursing homes acted negligently, resulting in resident deaths. This is the first federal appellate ruling on whether nursing homes can remove similar cases to federal court on the bases of federal-officer removal, complete preemption, and a substantial federal issue. The Court held that the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act and the federal officer removal law did not provide federal jurisdiction. Specifically, the Third Circuit declined to defer to the HHS interpretation of the PREP Act, stating that the PREP Act does not delegate authority to the HHS to determine the scope of federal court jurisdiction. The Court additionally found that the nursing homes were not acting under federal officers, and therefore the federal officer removal law was not applicable.