David Domina Quoted on Meat Packing Executive Order’s Legal Implications

David Domina Quoted on Meat Packing Executive Order’s Legal Implications

Media outlets have turned to Domina Law Group Founder David Domina for insight on the potential legal ramifications of President Donald Trump’s recent Executive Order to compel meat processing plants to remain open amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The order comes after some of the nation’s largest processors, including Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, considered reducing facility operations to 20%, and the majority of processing plants were facing shut downs that could have reduced the country’s processing capacity by as much as 80%.

The Executive Order declares these plants part of America’s critical infrastructure. However, it may not be enough to alleviate the bottleneck currently plaguing the U.S. protein industries, as plants already impacted by the pandemic will face a slow return to 100% capacity. What’s more, the order can’t compel people to work, and many working in packing plants are concerned about potential health risks.

Meat Packing Order Could Have Major Legal Implications

While beef and pork industries left with a large backlog amid COVID-19 are eager to resume harvest production, the new order to reopen meat processing plants – hot spots for the coronavirus – could create a web of liability issues that will weave through the courts for years.

As David Domina tells Axios and Farm Journal’s AgWeb, those legal challenges may involve debate over “force majeure” clauses (contractual provisions which excuse nonperformance in the event of extraordinary circumstances) and whether they’ll apply if meat producers such as Tyson, Conagra, Smithfield Foods, JBS, and Cargill fail to uphold contractual obligations with suppliers and customers, as well as potential legal problems if workers’ become sick on the job:

"The overwhelming majority of the workforce could have worker's comp claims," says Domina.

The debacle is shining a spotlight on our dependence on well-functioning supply chains, and the considerable disruption, workplace safety concerns, and legal dilemmas raised by the coronavirus.