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New York Court Discusses Preemption of Medical Malpractice Claims Arising Under State Law by the PREP Act

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread harm, and many people who contract the virus suffer incomprehensible losses. While there are numerous federal laws that protect health care providers from liability for COVID-19 related treatment of patients, they do not altogether preclude injured parties from pursuing medical malpractice claims. Nor do they require that such claims must be pursued in federal courts, as discussed in a recent New York opinion. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to negligent care in a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is smart to consult a Rochester hospital malpractice lawyer to assess your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Claims

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s wife was a patient at the defendant hospital in the Spring of 2020. During her admission, she was not tested for COVID-19, even though one of her doctors requested that she be tested. She subsequently suffered a pulmonary embolism, cardiac arrest, and clotting, which ultimately caused her to suffer permanent brain damage and paralysis. The plaintiff, acting as his wife’s guardian, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging in part that it was grossly negligent for recklessly failing to test her for COVID-19 or diagnose and treat her pulmonary embolism in a timely manner. The defendant moved the case to federal court on the basis of federal preemption under the PREP Act. The plaintiff then filed a motion asking the court to remand the case back to state court.

Preemption of State Law Claims by the PREP Act

The court ultimately ruled in favor of the plaintiff and remanded the matter back to state court. The court noted that the PREP Act, which was enacted in 2005, grants frontline healthcare workers immunity from liability during public health crises. Specifically, the Act provides that covered people are immune from liability with respect to claims or losses arising out of the administration of a covered countermeasure if the Secretary of Health and Human Services has issued a declaration with regard to such countermeasure. The PREP Act expressly preempts state laws that conflict with its provisions.

The court state that in March 2020, the HHS secretary declared the COVID-19 pandemic to be a public health emergency pursuant to the Act. Thus, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s claims were completely preempted by the Act. The court disagreed, noting that the overwhelming consensus among district courts was that claims similar to those asserted by the plaintiff were not completely preempted by the PREP Act. Thus, the court remanded the plaintiff’s claims back to state court.

Speak to a Capable Rochester Attorney

COVID-19 can cause devastating illnesses, and if a hospital fails to properly diagnose and treat people suffering from the virus, it should be held accountable. If you sustained injuries due to hospital malpractice, you might be owed compensation, and you should speak to an attorney regarding your rights. The capable Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers have the skills and experience needed to help you seek a just outcome, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or at 833-200-2000 to set up a meeting.



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