A U.S. district judge says Tyson Foods is not immune from lawsuits for following federal guidelines to keep its meatpacking plants open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision allows a lawsuit filed by the family of Isidro Fernandez to proceed. Fernandez, who worked at the company’s plant in Waterloo, Iowa, died in April following complications of the coronavirus.
Ruling dismisses argument over “essential” infrastructure
More than 1,000 Tyson workers tested positive for COVID-19 in May, and six reportedly died. The lawsuit filed by Fernandez’s family, as well as others filed over similar deaths, claims Tyson was negligent in how it reacted to the pandemic.
The company argued President Trump’s order designating meatpacking facilities as essential infrastructure should shield them from legal action. However, the judge said that the order wasn’t signed until April 28. Fernandez died two days earlier.
Furthermore, the judge says the government did not require the plant to remain open while not providing its workers with adequate protective equipment and safety measures. The ruling also says the order did not direct Tyson to make false claims about the virus’s dangers to its Waterloo workers.
Ruling follows mass firings of supervisors
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade’s decision sends the Fernandez case back to district court in Black Hawk County, Iowa.
It is the latest setback for Tyson after the company fired seven managers in December when it was discovered they ran a betting pool on how many employees would test positive for the virus.