Significant Cases

FMG Victory: Pennsylvania federal judge dismisses claims for COVID-19 related injuries

An Eastern District of Pennsylvania judge has ruled that Tyson Foods, Inc. (“Tyson”) is immune from liability for claims asserted by the family of a supervisor at a Philadelphia meatpacking plant who died of complications…

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An Eastern District of Pennsylvania judge has ruled that Tyson Foods, Inc. (“Tyson”) is immune from liability for claims asserted by the family of a supervisor at a Philadelphia meatpacking plant who died of complications from COVID-19. The claims were dismissed as the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (“PWCA”) is the exclusive remedy for job-related injuries. Although the Plaintiff argued only one entity could be immune under the PWCA, the court disagreed finding that Tyson, as a parent company exercising workplace control, was also immune from liability. Plaintiff alleged the meatpacking plant at which her deceased husband worked, was “owned, supervised, and controlled” by Tyson although he had been employed by Original Philly Holdings. She further claimed that Tyson’s COVID-19 safety measures were inadequate resulting in her husband’s exposure to COVID-19 and related death. She claimed Tyson could not be considered an employer under the PWCA because the Act only allows for one entity to be deemed an “employer” under the Act.
The Court rejected Plaintiff’s contention noting that Pennsylvania courts have explicitly held that an employee may have more than one employer for purposes of the Act. The critical issue for purposes of immunity is whether the entity has the right to control and direct the method and manner of work employees perform. Plaintiff’s allegations demonstrated that Tyson met the definition of employer for purposes of the Act. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleged Tyson “owned, operated, managed, and otherwise controlled” the meatpacking plant and “sell[s] meat products under the brand name Original Philly Cheesesteak.” The Plaintiff further contended that it was Tyson’s own failure to implement adequate safety precautions which resulted in her husband’s illness, and ultimately, death. Under the circumstances, the exclusivity provision of the Act mandated dismissal with prejudice of the tort claims asserted against Tyson.

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