Hospital workers withdraw lawsuit filed against Henry Ford Health System over vaccine mandate

DETROIT – Lawyers for 51 employees have voluntarily dismissed a lawsuit filed just this week against Henry Ford Health System for its employee COVID-19 vaccine policy.

Kyle VonAllmen, a Clarkston attorney representing the employees, withdrew the legal action in a two-page document entered Friday, Sept. 10, the same day the Detroit-based health system’s vaccine mandate takes effect.

Messages left Friday afternoon for VonAllmen and lawyer Thomas Renz were not immediately returned.

Henry Ford had not filed an answer to the complaint, initiated Monday, Sept. 6. Earlier this week, the health system said it remained confident vaccination is the most powerful available tool against the pandemic and declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The employees, including three physicians and a number of registered nurses, argued it was unconstitutional to require staff to be inoculated and asked a federal judge to deem the mandate unenforceable.

The lawsuit, which contended vaccines are harmful and potentially deadly, relied on Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System data, which is unverified, and included a declaration from a Nebraska doctor whose medical opinions are far outside the norm.

Dr. Lee Merritt of Omaha called the vaccines ineffective because they do not prevent infection with or onward transmission of COVID-19, and she inaccurately labeled the vaccines “experimental mRNA gene therapy.”

The mRNA vaccines were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use and were held to the same safety and effectiveness standards as other types of U.S. vaccines. They do not alter DNA, but teach cells how to make a protein, or even a piece of protein, that triggers an immune response. Though the vaccines are new, researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Henry Ford Health System, a private employer, mandated in late June that its employees, about 33,000 of them, receive COVID-19 shots by Friday. It allowed for religious, spiritual and medical exemptions. Those who do not comply will first be suspended and then terminated.

Several other Michigan health systems or hospitals have since followed suit. They include Spectrum Health of Grand Rapids and Ascension Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in Texas dismissed a lawsuit filed against Houston Methodist Hospital by employees who challenged its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas decision, Judge Lynn N. Hughes said the plaintiffs had no case; employers are allowed to mandate vaccines for its workers.

Federal courts also ruled this year against eight Indiana University students who contended the school’s vaccine mandate violated their constitutional rights to bodily integrity, autonomy and medical choice.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May said laws do not prevent employers from requiring employees physically entering workplaces to be vaccinated so long as employers comply with the “reasonable accommodation provisions” of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on color, race, national origin, sex or religion.

Health officials and doctors throughout the state and the country have lauded the vaccines as safe and highly effective, especially against hospitalization and death. About 4.8 million Michigan residents and 177 million people throughout the United States have been fully vaccinated.

Anyone can report a post-vaccine health concern to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Health issues documented there are not necessarily caused by a vaccine.

Though more than 7,200 deaths have been reported after a COVID vaccine, a review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines, according to the CDC.