The lawsuit against Tyson has been referred to federal court
Company lawyers argue that the plant’s actions during the pandemic involved federal warrants
The Tyson Foods factory in Waterloo. (Jeff Reinitz / Coursier Waterloo-Cedar Falls)
WATERLOO – A lawsuit filed by relatives of two Tyson workers in Waterloo and Independence who died within days of COVID-19 has been transferred to federal court.
Whether the prosecution will continue is now on appeal in the federal court system.
In the latest case, family members Jeffrey Orvis and Arthur Scott, both of Waterloo, filed a lawsuit in April in Black Hawk County District Court against Tyson Fresh Meats, Tyson Pet Products and some officials of factory.
Families allege Tyson ignored warnings about the coronavirus pandemic and failed to take action to protect his workers.
On Monday, the lawsuit was transferred to Cedar Rapids U.S. District Court at the request of lawyers for Tyson, who argued that the lawsuit’s allegations involved action taken by the company under the direction of federal officers – the former President Donald Trump and the US Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Agriculture.
Orivs, 65, who worked at the Waterloo pork processing plant, died on April 19, 2020. Scott, 51, worked at the Independence plant and died on April 23, 2020.
Their deaths came as community leaders and health officials called on Tyson to shut down its Waterloo operation amid a COVID-19 outbreak, a call the company rejected for more than a week before shutting down the operation on April 22, 2020.
In court records, Tyson has denied the families’ allegations, saying he has invested millions in safety equipment and followed federal workplace guidelines.
“Tyson has worked hand in hand with federal officials since the declaration of a national emergency on March 13 to safely continue operations to help the federal government fulfill its duty to secure the national food supply,” the company’s lawyers said in court records.
Lawyers for the families argued that Tyson processed enough meat during the pandemic to increase exports to China, and they noted that the Independence factory – where Scott worked – did not make dog food but treats for dogs.
The Independence factory remained open after the governor ordered the shutdown of non-essential businesses on March 26, 2020.
âPerhaps sensing the tenuous nature of his claim that making dog treats was essential, employees were given a letter to take with them stating that their work was essential,â the lawsuit said.
Trial dates have not been set and it is not clear whether the lawsuit will stay in federal court.
Similar lawsuits against Tyson Foods – filed by the families of deceased workers Sedika Buljic, Reberiano Garcia, Jose Ayala and Isidro Fernandez – have also been referred to federal court on similar grounds at the company’s request.
But in December, a United States district court judge disagreed with the reasons for the transfer “to act on direction of federal agents” and referred the case to Black Hawk County district court. .
The company is appealing the decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has stayed the cases.