Federal Judge Throws Out FL Vaccine Mandate Lawsuit
Loss of healthcare staff a “speculative” argument
In what could be a precedent for similar state lawsuits claiming the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate will cause an exodus of healthcare workers, a federal judge has rejected such arguments as “speculative” and “hearsay” in denying Florida a preliminary injunction to stop the requirement.1
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) or preliminary injunction, seeking to block an interim final rule by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to mandate vaccinations for healthcare workers. The state sought relief from the mandate before the first shots were to be given on Dec. 6, 2021.
The Florida lawsuit included statements from various state health agencies, with the essential argument that already-thin staffing would be cut to the bone by resignations as employees leave instead of getting vaccinated. Significant harm would result “either due to the anticipated loss of more employees or the negative impact that would result from the significant loss of federal funding if the agency is unable to comply.”
Lawrence Gostin, JD, a law professor at Georgetown University, predicted these staffing arguments would fail, in part because “workforce shortages are not legal arguments — they are policy issues.”
Intent to Resign Is ‘Hearsay’
M. Casey Rodgers, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida, ruled the following in rejecting Florida’s requests:
“On review of the record, the court finds no adequate showing that irreparable injury will occur in the absence of a TRO or preliminary injunction prior to Dec. 6, 2021. The affidavits in support of the motion include assertions of how the various agencies and institutions anticipate they may be adversely impacted by the mandate. In particular, the affidavits express opinions of agency heads who ‘estimate’ that they ‘may’ lose a certain percentage or a number of employees, or speculate as to the consequences they will suffer ‘if widespread resignations were to occur.’ However, such opinions, absent supporting factual evidence, remain speculative and may be disregarded as conclusory. … Additionally, statements regarding employees’ intent to resign are hearsay.”
The injury claimed cannot be speculative, but must be actual and imminent, Rodgers explained.
“Also, it is represented that these agencies receive substantial federal funding, which may be cut off if they refuse to comply, resulting in a loss of services and patient care, or longer waits or longer drives for patients,” she wrote. “However, economic loss such as the loss of funding is not irreparable. An injury is ‘irreparable’ only if it cannot be undone through monetary remedies.”
Florida’s argument for irreparable injury to its own state sovereignty if state laws are pre-empted fared little better.
“This argument lacks merit … Florida references no law or established policy in danger of pre-emption, but argues only that the Florida Legislature is contemplating legislation that would prohibit vaccine mandates,” Rodgers noted. “This is insufficient to justify the kind of relief Florida seeks. Accordingly, Florida’s motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction is denied.”
- State of Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S Court Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division. Nov. 20, 2021.
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