There are many, and Schrier Law Group would like to reiterate, many COVID-19 lawsuits being filed all around the country. One company in the crosshairs was Tyson Foods. Iowa State and federal legislation has shielded Tyson Foods from a negligence claim filed by a family who says their father contracted COVID-19 at the meatpacker’s Storm Lake, Iowa, pork plant and later died, the company says in new court filings.
Tyson is seeking a dismissal, saying the lawsuit is barred by Iowa’s new COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act and former President Donald Trump’s designation of meatpacking plants as critical infrastructure with a responsibility to continue to operate during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tyson also contends that the family of Michael Everhard has not proven that he contracted the virus while at work and that the claims should be adjudicated by Iowa’s worker compensation system.
What are the Details?
A 27-year Tyson employee, Everhard, 65, of Fonda, Iowa, died on June 18th, three weeks after being hospitalized and diagnosed with COVID-19. His family sued Tyson for gross negligence in December, saying that Everhard was forced to work in a confined work environment without proper safety measures while Tyson knew it was not implementing the necessary precautions available to protect workers from the virus.
In its motion to dismiss the suit, Tyson says the issue must be adjudicated through the Iowa Division of Worker’s Compensation and that Everhard’s family is circumventing the process.
The Everhard’s family attorney has said that Tyson can only claim immunity from liability for injuries or death of its employees if worker’s compensation or occupational disease compensation benefits were recoverable by a worker’s family or estate. Tyson has denied that Everhard’s family has a claim for worker’s compensation, he said, so it loses that immunity.
The COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act shields businesses from virus-related lawsuits unless plaintiffs can show a company acted with actual malice and intentionally and recklessly disregarded its workers’ safety.
Tyson’s Court Filings
Tyson said in previous court filings that since the beginning of the pandemic it has followed federal workplace guidelines and has invested millions of dollars to provide workers with safety and risk-mitigation equipment. Tyson, which employs more than 2,300 workers at its Storm Lake turkey and pork processing plants, conducted mass testing of its Storm Lake workers in May, and in June announced that 591 workers at the pork plant there had tested positive for COVID-19.
Tyson said in its dismissal motion that Trump’s declaration of meatpackers as critical infrastructure gave him the discretion to determine the manner, conditions and extent of their operations during a national emergency. That shields the company and others deemed as critical from lawsuits such as Everhard’s, Tyson said, because imposing liability on the company would undermine the emergency declaration.
At least one judge in Iowa has ruled otherwise.
The Schrier Law Group handles many cases. COVID-19 cases are new to the legal world, but Schrier Law has the resources necessary to help you and your family score a successful outcome in any case (including COVID-19 cases). It is important that you have your rights defended by someone who knows the law. Contact the Schrier Law Group for a personal injury attorney in Florida today!