Amarillo, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) – A Texas family has filed a lawsuit against the Tyson Plant in Amarillo after a mother of four passed away from COVID-19. The family alleges she caught the coronavirus at the plant.
Vuk Vujasinovic, the attorney for the unnamed family, told ABC7Amarillo, that the family is in the beginning stages of the claims process. Mostly, he said, the family wants answers as to what happened to Tyson employees at the meat-processing plant.
“Well the family number one is looking for answers why the company exposed their loved one to coronavirus,” he said. “Not providing her with a mask or social distancing etiquette or any of the standard measures that are required to protect people from the virus.”
Vujasinovic said the family believes that employees were standing shoulder to shoulder with no safety equipment or safety protocols for the virus, even as the state was shutting down and ordering stay-at-home orders. The attorney said his research indicates Tyson workers at facilities across the country have a much higher chance of contracting the coronavirus than the general population.
He believes the lawsuit will be the first of many.
“This is the first lawsuit that we are aware of against a company in the food industry for causing a death due to coronavirus. We suspect there is going to be more down the line,” the attorney said. “Maybe this case sets the precedent for those kinds of cases so we will definitely be looking out for that. We have handled many injury cases before against Tyson and the fact of the matter is a lot of employees and workers don’t know what their rights are.”
Tyson Foods said they sympathized with the family.
“We are saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with Ms. Gay’s family at this difficult time,” the company said in a statement. “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 [the Centers for Disease Control and prevention] and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19.”
Earlier this month, the CDC issued a report that lauded the company for implementation of guidance and procedures when it comes to plant safety in relation to COVID-19 – including temperature monitoring via body scanner, plexiglass shields to separate some administrative and floor workers, face shields for some workers, and visual cues to remind workers about social distancing.
However, the report did recommend the plant conduct contact tracing for those employees who test positive for the virus, as well as helping workers fill out sick leave paperwork if they need to take time away.
Vujasinovic said it was not until Tyson employees had already gotten sick and as many as 20 had died before the company put those measures in place.