JBS S.A. Seeks to Drop COVID-19 Death Lawsuit

JBS S.A., a meat and protein packing company, filed a motion on Wednesday in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to dismiss a case alleging the company is at fault for the death of Enock Benjamin from COVID-19. It hopes to dismiss the case with prejudice, claiming the plaintiff did not have sufficient facts to support an allegation against the company and that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over JBS.

The case was filed in May by Ferdinand Benjamin in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. He filed individually and as a representative of his father Enock’s estate. Enock Benjamin allegedly contracted COVID-19 while working at JBS’s beef processing facility in Souderton, Pennsylvania.

The defendant, however, claimed it has “no connection to (the) Plaintiff or the claims at issue.” The complaint was said to be “notable for what it lacks:  any allegations of conduct specific to any defendant.” This is reportedly the case for all defendants, but specifically for JBS S.A. The motion says that JBS S.A., which is headquartered in Brazil, does not operate JBS USA Food or the specific JBS plant in Souderton. The complaint reportedly did not include allegations that Enock Benjamin was employed by JBS S.A., or had any contact with the company. It says the various JBS entities “collectively and individually made decisions” regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, which the motion to dismiss argued is not a sufficient allegation.

The company claimed that “general personal jurisdiction is lacking” because it is not headquartered or incorporated in Pennsylvania. It further alleged that JBS S.A. was not involved in the COVID-19 planning or responses in the Souderton JBS meatpacking plant. The defendant alleges it “did not engage in any conduct related to the claims asserted” in the complaint.

Benjamin is represented by Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky and Wapner Newman Wigrizer Brecher & Miller. JBS S.A. is represented by Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, along with other related named defendants JBS USA Food Company; JBS USA Holdings, Inc.; JBS Souderton, Inc.; and an allegedly “unrelated” defendant, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation. Other defendants filed individual motions to dismiss the case in June.