SHERMAN, TEXAS — Tyson Foods Inc. filed a dismissal motion in late July for a wrongful death lawsuit of an employee who died from COVID-19 related issues.
The company argued to Judge Ron Clark of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas that the lawsuit does not prove that Tyson was responsible for infecting Jose Angel Chavez.
According to a Law360 report, Chavez worked at Tyson’s poultry processing plant in Shelby County, Texas, for more than 20 years and died on April 17. His wife and three children are suing Tyson on behalf of his estate.
“Tyson Foods failed to protect its employees from the known dangers associated with the coronavirus,” the Chavez family said initial lawsuit in June. “As a result of the defendant’s failure to use ordinary care, Jose Angel Chavez was infected with the coronavirus at work.”
In its dismissal motion, Tyson argued that the plaintiffs in the case have not offered any factual allegation that Chavez was infected at Tyson, much less due to Tyson’s negligence.
The company argued that liability would have to be increased across the country to various other businesses and locations that stayed open during the pandemic if these accusations were satisfactory.
“If conclusory allegations of causation are permitted, virtually any employer, business, school, church, or host could be brought into protracted litigation based on nothing but speculation,” Tyson claimed. “Texas alone has seen more than 400,000 confirmed cases and more than 6,000 reported fatalities as of this filing. For this reason, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,’ more than conclusory allegations are required.”
In the motion, Tyson mentioned President Donald Trump’s executive order in April making Tyson and other meatpacking facilities critical infrastructure.
“Any claim that could survive a motion to dismiss must take account of these federal actions, taken in the midst of a national emergency,” the motion said.
Tyson also pointed to a similar order that Texas Governor Gregg Abbott issued on March 31 that recognized food processing facilities as essential infrastructure.