AMARILLO, TEXAS — Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit restored a lawsuit by Tyson Foods Inc. workers that previously claimed that the company was negligent and failed to protect employees during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at its Amarillo beef plant.

Since the start of the lawsuit, attorneys for Tyson Foods argued that its operations fell under the executive order issued by former president Donald Trump which kept meatpacking plants open under the Defense Production Act.

In June 2021, the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas agreed with this argument from Tyson and denied the plaintiffs’ claims. 

During the latest opinion on Oct. 3, the three-judge appellate panel vacated the previous district court orders that dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, denied remand to state court and remand of further proceedings.

“We concluded that Tyson was not acting under direction of the federal government and that federal officer removal jurisdiction thus did not exist over claims materially identical to those at issue here,” the court stated. “We reasoned that although the food industry was designated as ‘critical infrastructure,’ the federal government’s guidance to critical infrastructure industries was nonbinding.”

This case initially began in August 2020 when a group of 41 employees and the estate of a worker who died of COVID-19 sued the meat producer in a Texas state court.