Tyson Claims COVID-19 Allegations Should be Dismissed Under New Texas Law

Tyson Foods Inc. filed a supplemental motion to dismiss in a Northern District of Texas lawsuit filed by 40 employees claiming that the company did not do enough to protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic. The supplemental motion cited protection given to the defendant through the Texas Pandemic Liability Protection Act, which was signed earlier in June. 

According to the allegations in the complaint, most of the plaintiffs contracted COVID-19 and at least one employee died from the disease because the defendant required them to continue coming to work and did not provide the employees protective equipment or the ability to distance themselves from other employees. The court recently ruled in favor of the defendants in response to multiple motions, granting dismissal to claims against three supervisors with Tyson and denying the plaintiffs’ attempts to remand the lawsuit to Texas state courts. 

In the present supplemental motion, Tyson alleged that the recently signed Act gives a “heightened standard for liability” for claims related to injury or death from exposure to “pandemic disease.”

The defendant claimed that, through the new laws, Tyson is removed “from the typical negligence framework” and instead the plaintiffs would bear the burden of proving that Tyson “‘knowingly’ failed to warn of or remediate conditions that Tyson knew were likely to result in Plaintiffs’ exposure to COVID-19, and that ‘reliable scientific evidence’ shows that Tyson’s alleged conduct ‘was the cause in fact’ of Plaintiffs’ COVID-19 infections.” 

Tyson claimed that the plaintiffs’ complaint does not meet these requirements because it does not allege that Tyson knowingly failed to warn the plaintiffs or knowingly failed to implement COVID-19 guidance from the federal government to reduce employees chances of contracting the virus. Instead, the complaint alleges negligence, gross negligence, and premises liability. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Arnold & Itkin, the Law Offices of Frank L. Branson, and Lovell Lovell Isern & Farabough. Tyson and the individual managers and supervisors are represented by Underwood Law Firm and Perkins Coie.