Tyson Moves Another Lawsuit Alleging it is at Fault for COVID-19 Related Deaths to Federal Court

Another lawsuit against Tyson Foods, Inc. and related entities and individuals regarding COVID-19 pandemic deaths was moved to federal court on Monday.  The lawsuit was initially filed on April 19 in the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County. 

Another lawsuit initially filed in the Black Hawk County court regarding an Iowa Tyson plant and its COVID-19 policies alleging they were responsible for four deaths is currently in the Eighth Circuit which is considering whether the matter should be heard in federal or Iowa courts. In that matter, the petitioners argued and the District Court ruled that the matter should be heard in state courts, however, Tyson alleged that because President Trump issued an Executive Order regarding meatpacking plants that there are federal questions involved and it should be heard at federal court. 

In the present lawsuit, Tyson and other defendants argued in their notice of removal that the allegations brought by the plaintiffs relate to actions done by the defendants at the direction of a federal officer, and that the issues are related to national emergency declarations and federal critical infrastructure designations, along with the Defense Production Act. 

Tyson said the deaths of the two individuals, Arthur Simmons and James Orvis, who according to the allegations contracted COVID-19 at work, “are tragic.” However, the defendants argued that the allegations of misconduct “are inaccurate and incorrect” and that the defendants plan to “vigorously dispute” the claims. 

“Tyson has worked from the beginning of the pandemic to follow federal workplace guidelines and has invested millions of dollars to provide employees with safety and risk-miti-gation equipment. Tyson’s efforts to protect its workers while continuing to supply Americans with food continue to this day,” the notice said. 

The plaintiffs, family members of Simmons and Orvis, claimed that as factory farm workers the individuals worked long hard hours, and were forced to keep working while sick which put workers at risk particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. They alleged that Tyson employees worked “elbow to elbow” without personal protective equipment or frequent cleaning, despite Tyson’s “vast wealth and resources.”  

The complaint specifically discussed conditions at the Waterloo plant, which is the plant involved in the Eighth Circuit lawsuit, and the Independence plant, which also produces dog treats.  Simmons worked at the Tyson Pet Products Plant in Independence, Iowa and Orvis reportedly worked in the laundry room at the pork processing plant in Independence, Iowa. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Loevy & Loevy and the defendants by Finley Law Firm P.C., Perkins Coie LLP, and Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP