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COVID Wrongful Death Lawsuit Dismissed

03/12/2024

A lawsuit alleging wrongful death was filed with a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in April 2021 by the Estate of an employee that died from COVID while working in the Mt. Pleasant, TX plant operated by Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. The Plaintiffs claimed that the company acted “with fraudulent misrepresentations, gross negligence and incorrigible willful and wanton disregard for worker safety.” 

 

During May 2020, COVID was prevalent in all meat and poultry processing plants with workers in close proximity and operating under conditions of low ambient temperature and high humidity that encouraged persistence of the airborne virus.  At this time, little was known of the epidemiology of COVID and the routes of infection.  Based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on influenza, separation of workers using partitions, masking and decontamination were introduced by the industry.  According to evidence submitted, the decedent was not provided with a mask or facial shield until late May 2020 prior to his death in mid-June 2020 from COVID as confirmed by the Titus County Medical Examiner.

 

The court dismissed the case without prejudice, allowing the Plaintiffs 21-days to amend their complaint with specific reference to alleged negligence on the part of the employer.