Rodney M. Hudson

About Rodney M. Hudson

Rodney M. Hudson is a partner in Faegre Drinker’s San Francisco office. He regularly represents global pharmaceutical and medical device companies in federal and state coordinated proceedings at trial and on appeal. Rodney has significant experience providing strategic advice and asserting preemption defenses as a bar to state law claims and state regulatory actions. Read Rodney's full bio

Effectively Navigating PREP Act Case Law – The Products Liability Perspective

Since the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (the PREP Act) was enacted by Congress in 2005, only a few courts have substantively commented on the Act’s requirements. The PREP Act provides federal immunity against state law tort claims to covered entities that manufacture covered countermeasures used to fight diseases and viruses declared as national emergencies, such as COVID-19.

The pivotal case substantively applying the PREP Act’s immunity defense is Parker v. St. Lawrence County Pub. Health Dept., 102 A.D.3d 140 (N.Y. App. Div. 2012). The Parker court held that because the plaintiffs’ daughter was administered a covered countermeasure to prevent the H1N1 virus, their state law claims for negligence were preempted and barred by the PREP Act’s immunity provisions. To date, no reported decision has permitted traditional state law tort claims against a manufacturer for the alleged use of a covered countermeasure under the PREP Act.

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Preparing for the COVID-19 Immunity Preemption Defense

As manufacturers of vaccines, pharmaceutical medicines, ventilators and respirators engage substantial resources and ramp up production to help fight COVID-19, many have presumably done so under the immunity protections afforded by the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (the PREP Act codified at 42 USC §247d-6d), and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act). Because of industry-wide uncertainty surrounding PREP Act immunity and the need for immediate and urgent action on the part of manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a non-binding Advisory Opinion explaining the scope of PREP Act coverage, its immunity provisions in the context of COVID-19 countermeasures, and informal guidance on the preemptive effect of the federal law.

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