A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Amazon by the family of one of the six Amazon employees who died in a collapse at an Illinois plant hit by tornadoes in December.
The lawsuit claims staff at the facility were forced to keep on working instead of being told to evacuate.
The case, filed at Madison County Circuit Court, claims the company failed to follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration preparedness measures for bad weather.
It claims it chose to keep people working during the high holiday season rather than evacuating, and did not have a building with a subterranean shelter.
The family of Austin McEwen, 26, of Edwardsville, Ill, have launched the lawsuit against the huge company.
Jack J. Casciato, a partner at Clifford Law Offices, which is representing McEwen’s family, said: “Initial reports from those that survived this avoidable tragedy are disturbing. We certainly intend to discover what precautions Amazon could have taken to save lives.
In a press conference on Monday, January 17, Mr Casciato said it was “very clear there could be a profit over safety” argument could be made in the case.
He continued: “Amazon was more concerned, during its peak delivery season, with keeping its production lines running.
“This facility could have easily shut down for the day.
“Workers like Austin could have been directed home the next morning, only losing perhaps 12 hours, could have resumed work and a lot of (lost) lives and injuries would have been avoided here.”
McEwan worked at the facility as a contract driver, had played hockey at McKendree University, and intended to start a family with his partner of five years.
His mother, Alice McEwen said. “Our son was a very loved individual,” she said. “He had a love for life.”
The lawsuit is seeking more than $50,000 in damages but a specific amount was not mentioned.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the facility is less than four years old and was “in compliance with all applicable building codes” allowing for continued work on the day of the storm.”
“Severe weather watches are common in this part of the country and, while precautions are taken, are not cause for most businesses to close down.”
As part of an ongoing investigation, OSHA dispatched compliance officials to the Amazon compound, which opened in July 2020 and employs approximately 190 workers over multiple shifts. The agency has six months to complete its investigation, including issuing citations and proposing monetary violations if safety or health violations are found.