DOUGLAS — A group of hospital employees in Douglas and Cheyenne filed a lawsuit Dec. 22 against their respective employers in federal court seeking to halt policies related to Covid-19 vaccinations and testing.
Two Cheyenne Regional Medical Center employees – recently fired nurse Christie Higgins and CNA Robert Shaffer – along with six Memorial Hospital of Converse County staffers – nurses Roni VanOsdol, Sharie Beller, Kaylonn Amundson and Tonya Middleton, CNA Anita Casperson and medical lab scientist Jennifer Sherfey – are seeking a preliminary injunction against their employers over their respective Covid vaccination policies and asking the court for a declaratory judgment in their favor. The case was filed in U.S. District Court for Wyoming in Cheyenne and was assigned to Judge Nancy Freudenthal.
The lawsuit is among numerous such cases filed across the country fighting the federal vaccination mandates imposed on healthcare workers through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and on private employers with more than 100 employees through the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments about the CMS and OSHA cases on Friday, Jan. 7, and how that plays out may impact the individual cases filed across the country in federal and state courts, including the recent one in Cheyenne.
Neither the plaintiff’s attorney, Nick Beduhn of Buffalo, nor the attorney for the two county-owned hospitals, Bradley Cave of Holland & Hart Law Offices of Cheyenne, responded to the Budget’s request for comment on the lawsuit Monday.
MHCC CEO Matt Dammeyer, who is travelling out of town this week, referred most comments to Cave but said he was aware of the lawsuit and had expected one to be filed based on the reaction from some employees over the hospital board policy, even though the original version and deadline of Dec. 5 was softened and moved to Jan. 1 and now has been pushed back to Jan. 30.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the (district) court responds,” he said, noting the Supreme Court oral arguments are this week on related cases.
Beduhn, in the civil rights lawsuit, said they are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from the “defendants’ refusal and neglectfulness actions to conform and comply with the provisions, requirements and duties set forth of Section 564 of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) . . ., which has resulted in many and repeated violations of state and federal law, and of the rights of the Plaintiffs secured by both the state and federal constitutions.
“To that end, and as set forth infra, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment vacating, voiding, and annulling any and all orders, policies, requirements that are based on internal arbitrary decisions contrary to Section 564; and an injunction prohibiting (d)efendants from establishing or enforcing any policies that are not in conformity with the criteria . . .”
He said Higgins is a registered nurse who had worked for CRMC for more than 10 years when she was terminated on Dec. 18.
Higgins had received the Pfizer shots in April of 2021 and almost immediately began suffering from side effects of the vaccine injection. In May, her health further deteriorated as she began having tremors and extreme weakness. A neurologist subsequently diagnosed Higgins with “Covid-19 vaccine related neurological disorder,” according to the complaint.
Beduhn contends, “Higgins’ situation is widely known throughout CRMC employees and is one of the reasons many other employees are hesitant or have decided to not receive the vaccine. These employees are all facing termination.”
Shaffer is refusing the vaccine “on legal, ethical, scientific and strong religious grounds,” even though he has been informed he will be terminated by CRMC if he persists.
As for the six MHCC employees in the lawsuit, five of them – VanOsdol, Sherfey, Amundson, Beller and Middleton – are refusing the vaccine for legal, ethical and scientific grounds. Casperson’s status is not mentioned.
In each of the cases except Casperson’s, Beduhn stated, “Like all of MHCC’s employees, she has been informed that if she persists in his decision to refuse the covid vaccine that she will be terminated.”
The attorney, in his court filing, argued that even after multiple injunctions that were issued against the Biden administration’s CMS mandatory vaccination plan, the two public hospitals set policies that “outright ignore and are in direct contradiction to . . . obvious and clear statement and the provisions and criteria” in federal rules and laws under the Emergency Use Authorization Act, which the vaccines fall under currently.
Among the requirements, he argues, is one for consent for treatment and a prohibition against mandating its use.
The lawsuit argues, “In other words, there is currently NO FDA approved Covid-19 injection available anywhere in the United States. Every Covid shot in America remains under the EUA law and thus people have the ‘option to accept or refuse’ them; and
“Even when an FDA approved Covid shot becomes available, individuals are protected by federal law and many states’ laws from being forced to get these shots based on their sincere religious beliefs or conscience rights.”
“. . . As an attempt to get full compliance of employees to get vaccinated, the . . . employers issued policies that require mandatory and constant testing using tests that only have EUA status.”
Additionally, Beduhn contends, is the threat of termination for some employees. “Worse yet are the nurses that are injecting the vaccines. Many have been told by their employer that they ‘cannot say anything negative’ about the vaccines with the treat (sic) of termination if they do. These nurses are required by federal law and regulation to fully inform the patient; and yet face being fired if they comply . . . They are literally in a situation that they must risk their license; or be fired.”
Those situations describes above, he argues, are in violation of the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions which provide rights to making personal health care decisions and to pursuing work to support your family.
Besides asking for an injunction to halt the policies being enforced, the plaintiffs are seeking costs and attorney fees.