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Nursing homes are fighting a rush of COVID-related class-action lawsuits from families who claim providers didn’t take proper steps to ensure residents’ safety during the start of the pandemic.

A New Jersey suit described in the Wall Street Journal is part of a growing trend nursing homes are facing from survivors of residents who died from the virus, the Journal reported Sunday.

“It’s going to be a knock-down-drag-out battle,” Steven M. Levin, the founder and senior partner of Illinois-based firm Levin & Perconti, told the newspaper. “It’s probably going to take years to get some of these cases to trial.”

In New Jersey, wrongful-death class-action lawsuits were filed this month against Canterbury at Cedar Grove, an 180-bed skilled nursing facility, and are being led by two former resident families, NJ.com first reported. The suits seek to represent more than 50 people who were infected after being exposed to the disease through the facility. 

Nine people died from COVID-19 at the facility and 89 were infected, according to the report. 

New Jersey was one of about 30 states to enact COVID-19 liability protections for nursing homes but resident advocates in recent months have sought to get those lifted. Provider attorneys have also sought to wave off plaintiff suits by arguing that nursing homes’ pandemic actions were covered under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness [PREP] Act. 

Nina Kohn, an elder-law scholar at Syracuse University College of Law, told the WSJ that plaintiffs could have trouble showing that a nursing home’s actions were responsible for a resident’s death “because the virus is so easily transmissible without contact.”

National law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth has tracked about 230 COVID-19 civil wrongful death complaints filed against healthcare providers this year.