Martin v. Petersen Health Operations, LLC, No. 21-2959 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
While residing in a nursing home, Hill died of COVID-19. Her estate sued in state court under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, The defendant removed the suit to federal court, asserting that Martin’s suit necessarily rests on federal law, 28 U.S.C.1441(a), and that it was “acting under” a federal officer under 28 U.S.C.1442(a)(1).
The district judge remanded to state court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed,. The nursing home is subject to extensive federal regulation (especially for Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement), and CDC orders during the pandemic have increased that regulatory burden but regulation does not turn a private entity into a public actor. The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, 42 U.S.C. 247d, forbids liability under state law for injuries caused by use of a “covered countermeasure”, and creates a federal claim for injuries caused by “willful misconduct” in connection with covered countermeasures (payable from a federal fund), but does not preempt any other kind of claim nor occupy the field of health safety. The estate’s claims are not even arguably preempted. The principal disputes in this suit are likely to be whether the nursing home allowed members of the staff to work while ill or failed to isolate residents who contracted COVID-19, which are unrelated to federal law.