Dismissal of COVID Litigation Against Texas Nonsubscriber

By Jennifer Hurless, president, Partnersource

A federal district court recently dismissed a case against Texas-based Tyson Foods, Inc., alleging exposure and contraction of COVID-19 by several employees at its Carthage, Texas, plant. The plaintiffs alleged that Tyson directed employees to return to work following stay-at-home orders and failed to provide personal protective equipment to its employees and implement social-distancing guidelines, which caused employees to contract COVID-19.

Recall that in June 2021, Texas enacted the Pandemic Liability Protection Act, creating a high threshold for plaintiffs asserting claims for COVID-19 related injuries. In Texas, a successful COVID cause of action requires a plaintiff show either (1) the employer knowingly failed to warn of or remediate a condition within its control or (2) the employer knowingly disregarded government standards after a reasonable opportunity to comply. In addition, the plaintiff must present reliable scientific evidence supporting that the failure to warn, remediate or implement government standards was the cause of the individual contracting the disease.

In Michael Fields et al., v. Tyson Foods, Inc., the court found the plaintiffs failed the causation prong because "they provide ‘no reliable scientific evidence’ that shows Tyson was the cause-in-fact of plaintiffs’ contracting COVID-19. Plaintiffs make only conclusory statements that they contracted COVID-19 because of unsafe working conditions, without alleging, how, when or why they contracted COVID-19 or accounting for other possible sources of infection."

The passage of the Pandemic Liability Protection Act has quelled COVID litigation in Texas, offering meaningful protection for businesses, including those exercising the Texas Option who have acted in good faith.

If you have questions about the Pandemic Liability Protection Act and its effect on businesses in Texas, please contact Jennifer Hurless.