Determining How Someone Contracted COVID-19 Difficult in Large Facilities



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Brooks Schuelke, Esq.
Schuelke Law PLLC

Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 12, 2021 – A recent news story detailed a lawsuit filed against Tyson Foods by the family of a deceased worker who contracted COVID-19 at work. Tyson is not alone; there are now many nursing homes, cruise lines and bigger retailers, such as Walmart, facing COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuits.

According to a news release put out by the Tyson worker’s family, at least 18 workers had died because of COVID-19 infections. The family’s attorney alleges that the rate of infection at the plant is “grossly disproportionate” to the nation’s general population.

The Texas Department of Health Service asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to inspect the 1 million square foot Tyson facility, the work center for over 4,400 workers. The final report recommended social distancing, entry screening and other sanitation suggestions. According to Tyson, they have exceeded CDC and OSHA COVID-19 safety guidelines by implementing symptom screening for team members prior to each shift, mandatory protective face masks, and physical barriers between workstations and in breakrooms. However, COVID-19 infections are rampant.

Texas has no workers’ compensation insurance requirement for workers, which means if a worker is injured or falls ill at work, they may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages suffered at work or a wrongful death lawsuit. “But herein lies a dilemma,” indicated Austin personal injury attorney, Brooks Schuelke. “How and where exactly did a worker contract COVID-19?”

Given the difficulty involved in tracing how a decedent acquired the COVID-19 virus, it appears as if at least some COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuits are unlikely to succeed. Nailing down when and how a decedent became infected will be a pivotal issue. Many families will be challenged in attempting to overcome their burden of proof. That does not mean that some claimants will not be able to do so.

“It’s a new area of the law in development,” added Schuelke, “and it’s not unlikely that each case is going to be different and even decided differently. In the meantime, if you or a family member has contracted Covid-19 at work, call me and we’ll talk.”

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