South Carolina Vaccine Lawsuit Removed to Federal Court

A lawsuit filed by twelve South Carolina firefighters seeking to block a vaccine mandate, has been removed to federal court due to the Constitutional questions raised. Chris Herndon, Damon Bevins, Jeremey Eardley, Jonathan Flanagan, Joseph Martin, Justin Ellis, Kevin Frizzell, Kody Capatosto, Mark Ortiz, Rusty Dean Grow Jr, and Travis A. Miller filed suit against the St. Johns Fire District, the fire chief, and each of the commissioners.

The suit was filed on September 23, 2021 in the Court of Common Pleas for the Ninth Judicial Circuit and removed to United States District Court for the District of South Carolina last week. It alleges that the fire district adopted a vaccine mandate requiring all personnel to be fully vaccinated by November 20, 2021 or unless granted an exemption. The firefighters claim the vaccine mandate violates the South Carolina Constitution, South Carolina common law, and the Constitution of the United States.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • The individual plaintiffs are District employees as defined in the Mandate who want to exercise control over their own medical treatment and are being forced to choose between their rights, privileges, and liberties as citizens on the one hand and their employment, careers, and financial futures on the other.
  • Plaintiffs seek an order declaring the Mandate as unenforceable because it conflicts with the South Carolina Constitution’s guarantee of free expression, violates the South Carolina’s Home Rule Act, violates DHEC’s General Supervision of Vaccination, Screening, and Immunization, would result in a common law wrongful discharge of the Plaintiffs, violates Substantive Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, free exercise, and due process, and deprives plaintiffs of their fundamental right to refuse medical treatment.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

I have received numerous emails and phone calls asking me about the legal basis for challenging vaccine mandates, as well as the likelihood of such suits being successful. In this regard there are a wide range of legal theories being used to challenge vaccine mandates – beyond my ability to list all of them. None have been successful to date. However, I will continue to post both (1) the lawsuits and (2) the rulings here on Fire Law so that folks who are interested can find what information is available here. Search for COVID19 vaccine lawsuits.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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