In a surprising ruling for nursing facilities throughout Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declined to dismiss a complaint against a nursing home alleging negligence in protecting residents from COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic. In doing so, the court determined that the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2005 (PREP Act) and Gov. Tom Wolf’s March 2020 order pursuant to the Pennsylvania emergency management services code (PEMSC order) do not immunize nursing homes and other similar facilities from negligence claims.
The case involves the death of a resident at a suburban Philadelphia nursing home during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic March-April 2020. The resident’s estate alleged that the nursing home was negligent because it did not enforce the implementation of personal protective equipment for staff, did not isolate or properly socially distance the resident from other residents with COVID-19, and did not implement proper infectious disease protocols, leading to the resident’s contraction of COVID-19 and death.