The Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District recently found that the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor that weighed against forum transfer in Bearden v. Conagra Foods, Inc. In this case, 45 plaintiffs brought a total of 39 product liability actions in the circuit court of Cook County against Conagra Foods, Inc., Conagra Brands, Inc., DS Containers, Inc., and Full-Fill Industries, LLC. Conagra Foods and the other defendants involved filed a combined motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens as to the out-of-state plaintiffs and a motion to transfer out of Cook County for the in-state plaintiffs. The circuit court issued a ruling without hearing argument dismissing the defendants’ motions and issued its findings.
In a previous post on the RDM Knowledge Blog, we wrote about the legal authority of both federal and state governments to mandate vaccinations among its citizens. In the article, we surmised that although states would have the authority to require vaccines, the political climate rendered such a position unlikely. This has been largely borne out, as no state has made vaccinations compulsory among non-employees, even more than six months after the widespread availability of multiple vaccines and despite lagging vaccination numbers in many states.
As states across the country ease out of COVID-19 restrictions, many state legislatures are passing laws to protect businesses from COVID-19 liability. Various chambers of commerce and pro-business groups across the country have been proponents of such protections and have pushed their state legislatures to pass laws to protect businesses. So far 30 states have enacted statutes that provide businesses some type of shield against COVID-19 liability suits.
Two COVID-19 vaccines have been submitted for approval to the Food and Drug Administration. While this is an important step towards bringing the pandemic under control, the vaccine’s efficacy is limited unless an overwhelming majority of the population is vaccinated. Current polling suggests that only a slim majority of people would choose to receive the vaccine. So, if large numbers of people are unwilling to receive the vaccine, what’s next? Can the government make vaccination mandatory? Established case law demonstrate that it’s legally feasible, but whether lawmakers choose to pursue such legislation is an entirely different question in the current political atmosphere.
As a citizen, RDM member Dyanna Ballou wants an effective vaccine as quickly as possible. As a lawyer, she wonders what litigation will inevitably follow with claims that approvals were rushed or wrong.