Settlement appears over in med students’ vaccine lawsuit

The settlement may be off in a lawsuit filed by three medical students who sought an exemption from a north Louisiana medical college’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements on religious grounds.

The students’ attorneys filed papers in federal court in Monroe on Tuesday, seeking permission to submit an amended complaint in the lawsuit against the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Monroe.

Last month, a judge signed a settlement in the lawsuit, stating the college formally agreed to exempt the students from its vaccination requirement. The judge had issued a temporary order in favor of the three students in August.

Tuesday’s filing by the attorneys for students, Rachel Lynn Magliulo, Matthew Shea Willis, and Kirsten Willis Hall, accuses the college of continuing what they call discriminatory polices, including requiring only unvaccinated students to wear masks indoors on campus and undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

The college is a private institution but it operates on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

The federal judge in the case has ruled the medical college’s collaborative agreement with the public state university makes it subject to state laws banning religious discrimination and permitting students to dissent from vaccine requirements.

The move to revive the lawsuit is the latest development in legal battles around the state and nation over vaccine requirements by employers or governments. The Biden administration on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court in Cincinnati to let it move ahead with a workplace rule that would require employees at larger companies to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing. A three-judge panel in the New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a stay putting the mandate on hold. But the case was consolidated with other litigation over the mandate and reassigned to the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, Louisiana’s Supreme Court has set a Dec. 7 hearing date for arguments on whether the state’s largest health care provider can require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Cases involving Ochsner Health employees in the Shreveport and Lafayette areas have been consolidated by the state’s highest court.

Cindy Rawlins, a spokeswoman for Edward Via College, said its attorney was reviewing the latest filing. She said requirements for all unvaccinated students and employees on campus to wear masks and get weekly testing follow new federal mandates for employers — as well as guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The College is acting according to CDC guidelines and following Louisiana laws as we continue to strive for a safe environment for all our students and employees,” she wrote in an email.

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