Nursing home operators are taking advantage of an expanded emergency preparedness law passed by Congress in 2020 to shield themselves from COVID-related wrongful death lawsuits. 

The law — the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act — was expanded by Congress last spring to shield some healthcare providers from legal liability during emergency circumstances, a Saturday report by POLITICO explained.

Guidance from federal legal offices has interpreted the law as providing cover for decisions made by nursing home operators regarding COVID-19 vaccines. 

“The advisory clarifies that nursing homes and other facilities should earn this immunity as long as they made reasonable considerations about virus mitigation measures, regardless of whether they actually followed through. Only those totally disregarding such measures would fail to be covered by liability protections,” the report explained. 

There are currently about 200 lawsuits filed against providers. Some experts have called the use of the law by providers as a “Hail Mary,” or a longshot at succeeding. 

“So why bother to throw a Hail Mary? Well, maybe you win, but you prolong the game — and prolonging the game is good because the longer you don’t have to pay money the better, and you discourage suits,” Heidi Li Feldman, a Georgetown University law professor, told the new organization.