Detroit hospital system sued over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

A health worker injects a dose of the Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 6, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
  • About 50 employees say mandate is unconstitutional
  • Plaintiffs claim data shows vaccines have caused thousands of deaths, injuries
  • Lawsuit comes as more employers are considering mandates

(Reuters) - Dozens of employees of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit have filed a lawsuit claiming the system's requirement that they receive COVID-19 vaccines violates their constitutional right to bodily integrity.

About 50 nurses, doctors and other Henry Ford employees filed a complaint in Detroit federal court on Monday saying the mandate requires them to choose between exposing themselves to a novel and potentially harmful vaccine or abandoning their careers in healthcare.

The plaintiffs, represented by VonAllmen & Associates and Renz Law, claim that as of Aug. 20, more than 13,000 people in the U.S. who received COVID-19 vaccines have died, and more than 30,000 have experienced permanent disabilities or life-threatening events. They cited statistics from unverified reports at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

In a July 21, 2021 page update, the CDC said it had received 6,207 reports of people who had died after receiving a COVID vaccine between Dec. 14, 2020 and July 19, 2021. It notes: “FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause.”

The CDC, on its website, says a review of available clinical information, including autopsy and medical records, has not established a causal link between those deaths and COVID-19 vaccines.

The lawsuit comes as an increasing number of employers are considering adopting vaccine mandates in the coming months, amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant and the Food and Drug Administration's recent full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The Henry Ford workers also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order that would bar Henry Ford from implementing the mandate pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

Henry Ford, in a statement provided by a spokesman, said: “We remain confident that vaccination is the most powerful tool we all have against the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond that, we cannot comment on pending litigation.” Henry Ford operates six hospitals in the Detroit area, including the 877-bed Henry Ford Hospital, and more than 40 medical centers and specialized facilities.

According to the complaint, Henry Ford in June adopted a policy making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all employees and volunteers. Under the policy, workers must be vaccinated by Sept. 10 and those who are not will be suspended and given until Oct. 1 to comply or face termination, the plaintiffs said.

But the workers claim that despite the policy's stated goal of protecting employees, data suggests that receiving the vaccine could injure many of them. They also claim there is little data showing that the vaccines are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement in March: “The authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provided early, substantial real-world protection against infection for our nation’s healthcare personnel, first responders, and other frontline essential workers.”

The plaintiffs said Henry Ford's mandate violates their rights to bodily integrity under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And Henry Ford has no compelling interest justifying the mandate, they said, because the "injections have been shown to be ineffective, cause injury, and death."

The workers say Ford is acting under color of law by asserting that its vaccine mandate serves the public function of ensuring the health and safety of its employees, patients and visitors.

"Each of these functions are traditionally, exclusively handled by the public sector," the plaintiffs' lawyers wrote. "When HFHS undertakes to determine public health policy, it becomes an actor under color of state law exposing its activity to Constitutional review."

The case is Kirn v. Henry Ford Health System, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, No. 2:21-12078.

For the plaintiffs: Kyle VonAllmen of VonAllmen & Associates and Thomas Renz of Renz Law

For Henry Ford: Not available

Read more:

First month of shots find no safety issues with Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna vaccines: U.S. data

Fact Check-Controversial MIT study does not show that mRNA vaccines alter DNA

Fact Check-VAERS data does not prove COVID-19 vaccine deaths exceeded 12,000Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines highly effective after first shot in real-world use, U.S. study shows

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at