Texas Lawsuit by Houston Methodist Hospital Staff Had Little Chance to Go Forward, and It Did Not

Last month, 117 staff members from Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, filed a lawsuit in federal court. In the suit, they claimed that they were being discriminated against for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, and that the hospital’s directive to staff to get the vaccine amounted to a violation of their human rights. According to law professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, the lawsuit had little chance to move forward. In a blog post, Professor Rubinstein Reiss pointed out several flaws in the legal reasoning behind the lawsuit:

“There is a real legal question about whether you can mandate a vaccine under a EUA. My view, as stated in several places, is that employers have a good argument that they can mandate a vaccine, but that is a legally open question. This complaint does raise it, but it does so by tying the argument to a set of inaccurate and sometimes simply incorrect factual claims and an unpersuasive, not well-presented legal analysis. This should work against it. If the only way to justify arguing against the mandate is by saying incorrect things, the case against mandates is not very strong.”

“COVID VACCINE MANDATE LAWSUIT FILED IN TEXAS BY METHODIST HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES”

On Saturday, June 12, 2021, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit entirely. As The Washington Post points out:

“The hospital system was among the first in the country to require all of its workers to be inoculated against the virus, which has killed about 600,000 Americans. More than 99 percent of its 26,000-strong workforce complied. But a small fraction refused, and chief executive Marc Boom said Tuesday that more than 170 employees had been suspended as a result.

Among them was Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who became the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit over the vaccine requirement after months of public opposition. The complaint, filed last month, argued that the mandate is unlawful and forces “employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

But U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes rejected that argument. In his ruling, he wrote the lawsuit’s claim that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous “is false, and it is also irrelevant.” The hospital system’s requirement does not violate state or federal law or public policy, he said.

The judge took particular issue with the complaint equating the mandate to medical experimentation during the Holocaust, calling the comparison “reprehensible.”

“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the covid-19 virus,” Hughes wrote. “It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a covid-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.””

“Judge dismisses lawsuit filed by Houston hospital employees who refused covid-19 vaccine” The WAshington Post. June 13, 2021.

As expected, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs is vowing to appeal and continue the fight

Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, an online project by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. All opinions expressed on these blog posts are not necessarily those of the College or any of my employers. Check out my professional profile on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/renenajera Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen