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Supreme Court Denies Tyson’s Bid for Review in Cases Arising Out of Waterloo COVID Outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today denied Tyson’s petition for review of a lower court’s December 2021 decision holding that wrongful death claims brought by the survivors of meatpacking workers who died following exposure to COVID-19 at Tyson’s Waterloo, Iowa, plant belong in state court. Public Citizen Litigation Group, The Spence Law Firm, LLC, and Frerichs Law Office represented the families of deceased workers. Below are statements from the attorneys representing families of the deceased workers:

“We are glad that the Supreme Court has finally disposed of Tyson’s arguments that federal officials somehow compelled it to continue operating its Waterloo plant without taking appropriate precautions against COVID-19 and lying to workers about the safety of the plant,” said Public Citizen Litigation Group attorney Adam Pulver. “It is unfortunate that Tyson has chosen to devote such great resources to this meritless theory. It dishonors the memory of its workers – workers whose lives were literally the subject of bets by Tyson supervisors.”

“The community of Waterloo was ravaged by COVID-19 because of Tyson’s choices and conduct,” said Mel C. Orchard, III of the Spence Law Firm, LLC. “Today’s order means that, as it should, whether Tyson can escape responsibility for its actions will be decided in Iowa’s courts.”

BACKGROUND: Tyson had argued that various statements by President Donald Trump, communications with U.S. Department of Agriculture 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 1,000 Tyson workers contracting COVID-19 in spring 2020 alone. The Supreme Court’s order today relates to cases brought on behalf of the families of four Waterloo workers who died in April and May 2020. While Tyson’s request for Supreme Court review has been progressing, the case has been proceeding in Iowa state court, where it is expected to continue. Read more about the cases here and here.