Wrongful Death Covid Case Moves Forward

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held on October 3, 2023 that the family of an inmate who died as a result of Covid19 may pursue a case against CDCR. During the early stages of the Covid19 pandemic, the California Institution for Men (“CIM”) experienced a severe outbreak of the virus. To safeguard CIM inmates, 122 inmates were transferred from CIM to San Quentin State Prison, where there were no reported cases of the virus. Unfortunately, this transfer triggered a Covid19 outbreak at San Quentin, infecting over two thousand inmates and resulting in the deaths of more than twenty-five inmates and one prison guard. The spouse of one of the deceased inmates brought a lawsuit, alleging that prison officials had violated her husband’s constitutional and statutory rights. The officials sought to dismiss the claims, arguing that they were protected by various federal and state immunities, including immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) and qualified immunity. The district court determined that at this stage of the legal proceedings, the officials were not entitled to immunity. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Defendants were not entitled to immunity because the complaint adequately alleged that the Defendants demonstrated deliberate indifference to the health and safety of inmates.  

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