In June of 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Pandemic Liability Protection Act into law. The Act applies retroactively to lawsuits filed on or after March 13, 2020. Since becoming the law in the State of Texas at least two federal judges have wasted no time dismissing lawsuits brought by employees claiming that actions by their employers caused them to contract COVID-19 based on the Act’s language.
In September 2021, U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Baker dismissed all claims against Tyson Foods, Inc. because the plaintiffs did not present any “reliable scientific evidence” that Tyson was the cause of their COVID infection and made only conclusory statements that they contracted the virus due to unsafe conditions. As a result, the court found that the plaintiffs did not allege facts sufficient to satisfy the Act.
Similarly, in December 2021, another Texas federal judge, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, dismissed a lawsuit filed by meatpackers at Swift Beef. Judge Kacsmaryk also found that the meatpackers complaint was silent on any “reliable scientific evidence” that Swift’s actions caused them to contract COVID. The plaintiffs in this case were provided the opportunity to amend their complaint to be compliant with the Act, but because the amended complaint was practically unchanged from the original, the court found dismissal was warranted.
In both cases, the court noted that the complaints filed by the plaintiffs failed to include the dates when each plaintiff contracted the virus which prevents the court from determining if the defendants had a reasonable opportunity to implement government promulgated standards or warn the plaintiffs of dangerous infectious conditions.
So far, it appears that the Legislature’s intent behind the Act – to protect employers who remain open for business from liability – is working to put a swift end to COVID related lawsuits.