Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

For Immediate Release

Contact

Phone: (202) 588-1000

Press Release

Court: Tyson Was Not "Acting Under" Federal Orders in Allowing Covid To Run Rampant Through Waterloo Plant

Statement from attorneys representing the families of the deceased workers
WASHINGTON -

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit today unanimously affirmed an Iowa federal court decision, holding that wrongful death claims brought by the survivors of meatpacking workers that died after being exposed to Covid-19 at Tyson's Waterloo, Iowa plant belong in state court. Public Citizen and The Spence Law Firm, LLC represented the families of deceased workers.

"Today's decision recognizes that this was an easy case," said Adam Pulver, attorney, Public Citizen. "As the court explained, the facts provide no support for Tyson's arguments that choosing to continue to operate its Waterloo plant without taking appropriate precautions and lying to workers about the safety of the plant was somehow compelled by a federal officer. Tyson's arguments had the potential to immunize thousands of American employers from negligent and reckless behavior throughout the pandemic—the Eighth Circuit has confirmed that Covid-19 did not alter well-established legal principles of federalism. Tyson was focused on profits, not the safety of the American people, much less its own workers, and its attempts to pin the blame on the federal government while delaying this case are shameful. We hope Tyson allows this case to promptly move forward so that the grieving families of its workers can finally have their day in court.

"The community of Waterloo was ravaged by Covid-19—because of Tyson's choices and conduct," said Mel C. Orchard, III and G. Bryan Ulmer, The Spence Law Firm, LLC. "As the Eighth Circuit recognized, a local Iowa jury should have final say on right and wrong."

Tyson had argued that various statements by President Trump, communications with USDA inspectors, and requests for government assistance meant that it was "acting under" the direction of federal officers, and thus only a federal court could hear the case. Tyson's Waterloo facility was the source of one of the largest Covid-19 outbreaks in America, with over 1000 Tyson workers contracting Covid-19 in spring 2020 alone. The cases decided by the Eighth Circuit today are brought on behalf of the families of four Waterloo workers who died in April and May 2020. The case will now return to Iowa state court, where it will be litigated on the merits. Read more about the cases here and here.

###

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people – not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

Ocasio-Cortez: Maloney Should Quit DCCC Post If He Runs Against Mondaire Jones

"It's completely inappropriate" for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to be in charge of the House Democrats' campaign arm "if he's going to challenge another member," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kenny Stancil ·


War, Disasters Drive 'All-Time High' of Nearly 60 Million Displaced in Home Nations

The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council noted the situation "is phenomenally worse than even our record figure suggests" because it does not include those forced to flee Russia's assault on Ukraine.

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Climate Movement Warns Nations Have Just 6 Months to End Fossil Fuel Finance

"The pandemic has shown that governments can rapidly mobilize massive sums of public money," says one campaigner. "This is the moment to do it, and accelerate the transition."

Brett Wilkins ·


Analysis: 26 US Billionaires Paid Average Tax Rate of Just 4.8% in Recent Years

"When you include their untaxed wealth growth in the calculation, many billionaires pay almost nothing," said Frank Clemente of Americans for Tax Fairness.

Jake Johnson ·


'We Were Expecting This,' Says Family After Israel Says No Criminal Probe Into Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

The development came as leading international artists called for "meaningful measures to ensure accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and all other Palestinian civilians."

Andrea Germanos ·

Common Dreams Logo