Tyson Responds to Another Lawsuit Regarding its COVID-19 Response

Tyson Foods Inc. removed a lawsuit filed by seven employees of its Amarillo, Texas plant who claimed the company did not protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic to the Northern District of Texas on Friday. This lawsuit is one of many filed against Tyson regarding its response to the pandemic, and it is not the first they have moved to a federal court. 

Tyson alleged, in this notice of removal and in others, that its actions were at the direction of federal officers, and that it has a federal defense so the matter should be considered in a federal court. Specifically, Tyson said that the issues in the complaint are related to federal emergency declarations, the Defense Production Act, and federal critical infrastructure. 

The plaintiffs claimed in their District Court of Potter County complaint filed in early July that they contracted COVID-19 while working at Tyson and were harmed. They alleged that they got sick “because of the unsafe working conditions at the Amarillo, Texas facility.” They further claimed that at least 7,100 Tyson employees contracted COVID-19 in all of its facilities and 24 employees died. Purportedly, Tyson was “negligent and grossly negligent.” The plaintiffs claimed it could have prevented some of the illnesses by not requiring sick employees to come to work or implementing precautions and protections. 

In response to the complaint, Tyson said “Plaintiffs’ allegations — including allegations of willful misconduct — are inaccurate and incorrect, and Tyson vigorously disputes Plaintiffs’ claim. 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-mitigation equipment. Tyson’s efforts to protect its workers while continuing to supply Americans with food continue to this day.” 

In its motion, the defendant cited that it was determined to be an essential business for the food supply chain and that it kept in contact with federal officers and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Services to discuss how they could continue operations. The company cited multiple federal defenses that it could claim in response to the lawsuit. 

Tyson is represented by Underwood Law Firm P.C. and Perkins Coie LLP. The plaintiffs are represented by Arnold & Itkin LLP