Judge Grants Noah’s Ark Processors’ Motion to Dismiss COVID-19 Negligence Suit

Judge John M. Gerrard of the District of Nebraska ruled on Monday to dismiss a complaint filed by former employees at Noah’s Ark Processors, a Nebraska meatpacking plant, purporting that the defendant did not take sufficient measures to protect its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The judge ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing because they are not current employees, and one of the plaintiffs was reportedly a local doctor rather than a former employee. “While the Court does not question their sincere concern for the well-being of Noah’s Ark’s employees, the Court finds that they lack standing to assert the claims they have alleged,” the order stated

Reportedly, one of the plaintiffs worked for the defendant until Fall 2020, three of the plaintiffs worked there “until last year,” but each remains in contact with plant workers. The doctor reportedly works in pediatrics and has treated the children of current meat processing workers and various individuals, who have contracted COVID-19. 

The complaint filed by the plaintiffs in late 2020 claimed that the actions at Noah’s Ark Processors contributed to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Adams County and Hall County, which purportedly were “more serious than neighboring counties.” Regardless, the order determined that the plaintiffs had not “suffered an injury in fact,” which could be traced to the defendant or addressed through the court. 

Judge Gerrard said in the order, “The plaintiffs’ alleged injuries are neither concrete nor particularized: the gist of their claim to standing is that there could be another COVID-19 outbreak at Noah’s Ark, and that could cause widespread disease in the community in which they live, and that could endanger them and affect the community … a plaintiff cannot establish standing by asserting an abstract general interest common to all members of the public, no matter how sincere or deeply committed a plaintiff is to vindicating that general interest on behalf of the public.” 

Purportedly, the plaintiffs did not allege any past injury, only the possibility of future injury. The order also reported that the claims did not establish “traceability and redressability” as a future outbreak could not necessarily be traced to the defendant. “It would be different were the plaintiffs, say, current employees of Noah’s Ark. Then, their risk of COVID-19 might be fairly traceable to their workplace, and injunctive relief in their favor might mediate that risk,” Judge Gerrard said. 

The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, and the defendant is represented by Betterman Law Firm.