Tyson Foods filed motions to dismiss in two cases claiming the plaintiffs failed to state a claim in lawsuits claiming negligence of the company and its managers caused employees to contract the COVID-19 virus during the pandemic.
Both lawsuits were moved to separate Texas district courts on August 28. They were each filed by multiple Tyson employees who say they contracted the COVID-19 virus because the company forced them to continue working and did not provide proper training or equipment to prevent impacts to the company and its employees during the pandemic. They said that at least 7,100 Tyson employees contracted the COVID-19 virus. One lawsuit was filed by employees at the Center, Texas plant and the other by employees of the Amarillo, Texas plant.
Tyson argued in the case filed by 41 Amarillo, Texas employees that the “allegations of causation are far too conclusory” and that the complaint did not account for the preemption in the Federal Meat Inspection Act which preempts the state-law requirements cited by the plaintiffs and regulates disease at meat-processing plants.
The company’s motion stated, “That these individuals are among the many thousands of Americans who have died or suffered illness during the COVID-19 pandemic is a tragedy. But the complaint brought by Plaintiffs fails to adequately plead a plausible claim against Tyson. The complaint pleads no theory of liability or causation other than conclusory allegations that Tyson was negligent for allegedly failing to shut down or provide sufficient protective measures, and the reader is left to speculate that the absence of those measures caused Plaintiffs to contract COVID-19. The complaint does not allege any particular incident of exposure occasioned by alleged negligence, nor does it attempt to rule out other potential causes of infection, such as community spread. The complaint simply concludes that Plaintiffs became infected because they worked at Tyson. This case must be dismissed.”
It further claimed that the company “proactively and aggressively” responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and invested in providing protection for its employees while continuing to produce food. They said it was not “plausible” to assume that working at Tyson is why the employees contracted the COVID-19 virus and that without “plausible allegations” of causation the complaint should not stand.
Tyson’s motion to dismiss the case filed by 12 plaintiffs who worked in Center, Texas explained similar reasoning to the other motion, and much of the same wording. Tyson managers who were named as defendants also filed motions to dismiss which alleged, in addition to the company’s arguments, that workplace safety claims could only be filed against an employer and not co-employees. They said the case is not about specific actions taken by the managerial defendants, thus the claims could only be filed against Tyson.
The plaintiffs in the case about the Center, Texas plant are represented by Arnold & Itkin and the Law Office of Don Wheeler. Tyson and its managers are represented by Mayer LLP. The plaintiffs in the case about the Amarillo, Texas plant are represented by Arnold & Itkin and Young & Newsom. Tyson and the individual managers and supervisors are represented by Underwood Law Firm.