In an early blow to skilled nursing facilities, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against two nursing homes in New Jersey, finding the COVID-19 nursing home lawsuits should continue in state court.

Negligence and wrongful-death lawsuits were initially filed in April 2020 in state court against Andover Subacute & Rehabilitation I & II by families of four residents who died of COVID-19. The ruling, issued last week, is believed to be the first decided by a federal appeals court on the matter, according to the opinion.

The lawsuits alleged the facilities did not take precautions to contain the spread of COVID-19, including failing to monitor food preparation, failing to provide personal protective equipment and allowing visitors and employees to enter the facilities without taking their temperatures or making them wear a mask, the ruling stated.

After the lawsuits were filed in state court the nursing home defendants requested the cases be transferred to district court. The district court judge dismissed the case because it lacked jurisdiction and sent it back to state court, according to the opinion. The nursing homes appealed that decision.

The defendant nursing homes argued on appeal that they were covered by the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP), and the cases should be heard in federal court.

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