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Judge dismisses lawsuit by Houston hospital employees over Covid-19 vaccinations

The lead plaintiff, Jennifer Bridges, likened her employer's vaccination requirement to forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust.
Image: Coronavirus disease outbreak in Houston
A nurse wheels away a man brought to Houston Methodist Hospital on June 28, 2020.Callaghan O'Hare / Reuters

A federal court in Texas on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit by 117 hospital employees who challenged their employer's vaccination requirement.

In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas' written decision, Judge Lynn N. Hughes said lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges, a nurse, and 116 other Houston Methodist Hospital employees who challenged the requirement, had no case.

The employees' lawyer, Jared Woodfill responded in a statement Saturday, "This is just one battle in a larger war to protect the rights of employees to be free from being forced to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition for employment."

He said they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court "if necessary."

On Tuesday, hospital officials said they had suspended 178 employees who refused to be inoculated.

Hughes addressed the plaintiffs' arguments one-by-one. On the vaccination requirement violating due process, she wrote, "Texas does not recognize this exception to at-will employment."

On their argument that the requirement would force workers to break the law: "Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is not an illegal act, and it carries no criminal penalties."

"She [Bridges] is refusing to accept inoculation that, in the hospital's judgement, will make it safer for their workers and patients in Methodist's care," Hughes wrote.

On their claim they were being coerced: "This is not coercion. Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer."

On their claim that they are being required to take an "unapproved" medicine: "Federal law authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to introduce into interstate commerce medical products intended for use in an emergency."

At times, Hughes seems to mock the plaintiffs, saying, for example, that their complaint was written "press-release style."

Plaintiffs, she said, "misconstrued" the law and "misrepresented the facts" of vaccination, including that the requirement amounted to forced medical experimentation because Covid-19 vaccines have received emergency Food and Drug Administration authorization but not full approval.

Hughes also knocks down a comparison to forced medical experiments in Nazi Germany.

"Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible," she wrote.

Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, said in a statement Saturday night, "We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation."

Hughes concluded by saying "plaintiffs will take nothing" from the hospital.

Joe Studley and Austin Mullen contributed.