Home Entertainment ABC Faces Trial Over ‘General Hospital’ COVID Vaccination Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

ABC Faces Trial Over ‘General Hospital’ COVID Vaccination Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

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A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has denied ABC’s bid to dismiss the COVID vaccination wrongful termination case filed by a father and son who ran the construction and special effects department for ABC’s “General Hospital.”

James Wahl and his son Timothy Wahl sued ABC in 2021, asserting they were fired from the long-running daytime serial when they refused to get a COVID-19 vaccination on religious grounds. On the heels of Judge Stephen I. Goorvitch’s Feb. 20 order denying ABC’s motion to dismiss the case, the sides are set to meet March 11 to confer on a trial date.

Goorvitch rejected ABC’s assertion of doubt that the Wahls’ objection to the COVID vaccination were based in firm religious beliefs. ABC argued that the pair’s roles were such that they could not receive an exemption to its strict COVID vaccination policy, given the industry-wide restrictions imposed during the pandemic to allow TV and film production to resume.

“The jury, not the judge, must resolve whether Plaintiffs [the Wahls] had genuine religious beliefs and whether Defendant [ABC] could have reasonably accommodated Plaintiffs without posing an undue hardship,” Goorvitch wrote.

The judge seemed to question whether ABC had made an effort to accomodate the pair and whether it overstated the risk the Walhs posed to “General Hospital” cast and crew members.

“Defendant argues that Plaintiffs could not have been accommodated because they could not maintain a distance of six feet from others. Interpreting the record in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, however, they were only in close proximity to others for between 30 seconds to several minutes while Plaintiffs were masked and testing regularly and the people with whom they had contact were vaccinated,” Goorvitch wrote. “Defendant’s own evidence suggests that vaccines were highly effective. This gives rise to a triable issue whether Plaintiffs posed an undue risk under these circumstances.” Similarly,
Defendant argues that ‘the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus was prevalent’ during the
fall of 2021, but again, whether Plaintiffs’ measures and the cast/crew’s vaccinations were
sufficient is a triable issue. Defendant’s arguments must be made to the jury.”

The “General Hospital” case is part of a flood of post-pandemic litigation between employers and employees over COVID vacciation policies. A lawsuit similar to the Wahls’ complaint was filed against “General Hospital” by actor Ingo Rademacher, but it was dismissed by Goorvitch last June because, per the judge, “the plaintiff refused to cooperate with the interactive process.”