The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans granted the dismissal of a case claiming Tyson Foods was responsible for seven employees contracting COVID-19 at the company’s facilities. The court found the employees did not provide enough evidence for their complaint.
A group of 41 meatpacking plant workers at Tyson’s Amarillo, Texas plant, along with the estate of one employee who died of COVID-19, sued the poultry company. The plaintiffs argued that Tyson put them in danger of contracting the virus at the beginning of the pandemic.
In its defense, Tyson argued it had the authority to keep the plant open because of former President Donald Trump’s executive order in April 2020 which instructed meatpacking facilities to continue operating. In a Congressional hearing last year, lawmakers claimed meat companies used “baseless” claims of meat shortages in order to keep the plants open.
A federal judge dismissed the case in June 2021, ruling the employees did not do enough to prove the company put them in harm’s way. The case was reinstated last October.
In a 3-0 ruling, the appellate judges said the employees were unable to connect the COVID-19 infections to Tyson putting them at risk. The workers failed to specify the time and date that they were infected, the judges said.
“Plaintiffs have provided no facts to plausibly suggest that of the myriad places and ways in which they could have been exposed to COVID-19, they contracted the virus at the Tyson plant as a result of Tyson’s negligence,” states the appellate opinion.
The poultry company was criticized widely in 2020 for keeping several facilities open during coronavirus outbreaks, after thousands of workers tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this month, 34 current and former workers at Tyson facilities in Arkansas sued the company, stating that the company chose not to take proper precautions to protect its workers. The lawsuit claims that Tyson did not provide masks or modify operations for social distancing.