HEALTH

Lawsuit: Woman says she received full vial of COVID vaccine; CVS subsidiary claims immunity

Nov 28, 2023, 10:00 AM

A Salt Lake County woman filed a lawsuit claiming a COVID-19 vaccine dose five-times larger than th...

A Salt Lake County woman filed a lawsuit claiming a COVID-19 vaccine dose five-times larger than the recommended dose has negatively impacted her health. But CVS subsidiary MinuteClinic Diagnostic of Utah says they are immune from the claims. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake County resident filed a lawsuit claiming she received five times the proper COVID-19 vaccine dose, impacting her health. But the company that administered the vaccine, a subsidiary of CVS, says federal laws give it immunity from the lawsuit.

Julianna Preece says she received 2.5 milliliters of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, a full vial which was intended to be split into five doses, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit was filed against MinuteClinic Diagnostic of Utah — which provides vaccines at CVS locations, including one in West Valley City where Preece went to get her vaccine in August 2021 — and its employees.

According to the lawsuit, a new employee was being trained and was directed to prepare the vaccine while the nurse training her worked on paperwork. The trainee administered the vaccine and then asked where the empty vial should be discarded. The employee who was training her was confused, and then left the room with the trainee, the complaint said.

Shortly afterward, both employees came into the room and explained that Preece had been given five times the proper dose, according to the lawsuit.

The employees told Preece “that they were not aware of what possible side effects would occur from a higher dose, aside from possible heightened reactions,” the complaint said.

The new nurse admitted she had not looked at the dosage chart because every other shot she had given included the full vial, Preece’s attorneys allege in the lawsuit.

It said the employees watched Preece for a while, then sent her home and instructed her to go to the hospital if anything out of the ordinary happened. Later that evening, Preece had a difficult time standing, walking and talking, the lawsuit said, and her husband decided to take her to the hospital.

According to the complaint, Preece passed out while getting into the car and her husband called an ambulance. It said she spent three days in the hospital and continues to have poor health despite previously being healthy. The lawsuit said she now experiences chest heaviness, stomach pain, painful bloating, headaches, kidney stones and liver issues.

Although the lawsuit was filed in August, it was not officially served to the CVS subsidiary until late October. The company did not respond directly to the allegations, but instead asked the 3rd District Court to dismiss the complaint in a motion filed on Nov. 21.

It claimed that the company and the two nurses are immune from the lawsuit due to the Public and Emergency Preparedness Act, or PREP, which protects those administering “countermeasures” to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MinuteClinic Diagnostic of Utah said claims related to the PREP Act can only be brought in the District of Columbia District Court, not in state courts. It said Utah courts have not yet addressed immunity under the PREP Act, but other courts around the country have, listing multiple lawsuits where courts ruled that pharmacies were immune when accused of administering COVID-19 vaccines without consent.

Preece’s attorney, Kyle Adams with Pearson Butler, said on Monday his clients have been trying to resolve the issue with CVS and local owners since shortly after the incident with no success. Adams said an evaluation determined Preece’s current and future health issues and other economic losses due to her health could cost her over $1 million.

He said the response from CVS (the motion to dismiss the case) didn’t address the allegations in the complaint.

“They’re not even fighting to say this didn’t happen; they’re saying even though it did happen … they’re immune,” he alleged.

Adams said Preece plans to contest the motion to dismiss the case and argue that because the nurses allegedly did not follow the procedures and instructions sent with the vaccine, the PREP Act does not give them immunity.

He called it “crazy” that the position in CVS’s motion means any person or company could ignore instructions for the COVID-19 vaccine process and still be immune from liability if anyone got hurt.

“That’s certainly not what was intended when the legislation was passed,” Adams said.

Related: New RSV vaccine is a “game changer” but it’s not for everyone yet

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Lawsuit: Woman says she received full vial of COVID vaccine; CVS subsidiary claims immunity