Ravaged with COVID-19 infections at its meat plants, Tyson Foods Inc. is turning to federal preemption to wipe out negligence lawsuits brought by dozens of employees and their families who got sick from the coronavirus.

In motions to dismiss the lawsuits or remove them to federal courts, Tyson is turning to the federal government’s directives during the pandemic to keep plants operating, including an April 28 executive order from President Donald Trump, as well as two regulatory laws: the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. While both are specific to the meat packing industry, Tyson’s move to assert federal preemption could be a critical defense for companies facing claims that their negligence caused individuals to get the coronavirus—at least, until Congress passes any potential legal immunity provisions as part of the $908 billion COVID-19 relief bill.

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