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Update: Lawsuits Challenging Tri-State Hospitals' Vaccine Mandates To Be Refiled

Bill Oxford
Updated: August 30, 2021 at 4:53 PM EDT
Lawsuits against six area hospital systems related to the COVID-19 vaccine have been dismissed. However, the law firm representing the employees says it intends to refile. The law firm of former attorney Eric Deters asked the courts to dismiss the initial lawsuits seeking to stop the hospitals from requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. No reason was given.

The suits could be refiled as soon as next Tuesday according to the law firm. The hospitals aren't commenting on the litigation, though at least four of the six had asked for the cases to be moved to the federal courts in Cincinnati and Covington.

This story was originally published on Aug. 24, 2021.

Lawsuits filed on behalf of employees of local hospital groups seek to challenge recent COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The suits argue it's illegal to mandate vaccines and doing so is a violation of employees' constitutional rights.

All six Cincinnati-area hospital systems announced earlier this month they will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the end of the year. UC Health, Cincinnati Children's, St. Elizabeth, Mercy Health, TriHealth and Christ cooperate under the umbrella of The Health Collaborative. The vaccination deadline varies between systems.

The move follows similar requirements by employers across the country. As of about a week ago, NPR reports some 1,750 health care systems nationwide have issued vaccine requirements for employees. Court challenges to vaccine mandates have so far been unsuccessful. There is no federal law prohibiting such requirements and recent guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) say employers have the legal right to make such a requirement.

The 142-page suit was filed by the law firm of former attorney Eric Deters who cannot practice law in Ohio or Kentucky. He functions as a spokesman for the firm and runs a conservative website where he posts videos opposing pandemic precautions. In recent videos, he complains of criminal conspiracies between the government and medical providers. Those claims are echoed in the lawsuits.

The filing includes hundreds of complaints ranging from health care fraud to a "history of Pharma lying, history of media lying, history of hospitals lying, history of corporate America lying, (and) the history of the government lying" and the idea that "to not do as they all say is stupidity, selfish and even murderous."

Spokespeople for several of the health care systems declined to comment citing pending litigation. UC Health spokeswoman Amanda Nageleisen did issue the following statement on the health system's position on COVID-19 vaccination:

"We respect the right of our team members to express their thoughts and opinions. Realizing that we are in an unprecedented situation, we rely on science to help us make the best decisions possible in order to keep our employees, clinicians and patients safe.

"As a health care provider, UC Health requires vaccination for other communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and influenza. Science has demonstrated that COVID-19 vaccinations have proven to be safe and effective. Overwhelmingly, they protect people from hospitalization, ICU-level care and death.

"As the region's adult academic health system, it is our privilege to care for some of the most critically ill patients in our community and it is our responsibility to do all that we can to do so in a safe environment."

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.