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The family of a Tyson Foods Inc. worker who died from COVID-19 has filed a wrongful death suit against the company.
The husband and four children of Pwar Gay, who worked as a meat cutter at Tyson’s Amarillo, Texas plant and died from the virus May 8, charged the Springdale, Arkansas-based firm with “grossly negligent conduct,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Amarillo on May 15 in Ka La Ya Lay et al. v. Tyson Foods Inc.
The lawsuit said Ms. Gay slipped and fell and injured her knees in April while on the job. Tyson sent her to the company clinic, where she received first aid treatment and was sent back to work.
The complaint said although Ms. Gay was suffering from pain and swelling, she was not allowed to go home and rest or seek medical attention because of Tyson’s staff shortage.
The lawsuit said after working on her injured leg, Ms. Gay, who was not provided any personal protective equipment by the company, fell ill and was rushed to the hospital after she started having difficulty breathing. She was in the hospital for several weeks before her death.
Ms. Gay’s injuries and death “were proximately caused by the negligence, both of commission and omission, of Tyson. Tyson’s negligence caused Ms. Gay’s knee injuries, and also caused Ms. Gay to contract COVID-19 and die,” says the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says at least 4,500 Tyson employees have contracted COVID-19 and at least 18 have died, which is a “grossly disproportionate number of Tyson employees” when compared with the population as a whole.
Tyson does not provide workers compensation insurance to its employees, nor any paid sick leave, said the complaint.
Tyson said in a statement, “We are saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with Ms. Gay’s family at this difficult time.
“At Tyson Foods, our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we have put in place a host of protective steps at our facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19.”
Although businesses have been urging U.S. lawmakers to shield companies from what they fear could be a flood of lawsuits by workers and consumers blaming employers for exposing them to the new coronavirus, few such cases have been filed to date.
More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.
Several animal welfare groups and the Government Accountability Project have filed a lawsuit over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2018 increase of poultry slaughter line speed limits.