SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP) — The family of a delivery driver who died last month when a tornado toppled an Amazon plant in central Illinois where he worked filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday in Madison County.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 26-year-old Austin McEwan, alleges that Amazon failed to warn employees of dangerous weather or provide safe shelter before a December 10 tornado hit the Edwardsville facility, killing McEwan and five others.
This is believed to be the first legal action taken in response to the death. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration launched an investigation.
McEwan’s parents, Randy and Alice McEwan, allege that Amazon administrators knew severe weather was imminent but had no contingency plan and did not evacuate employees from the fulfillment center.
“Unfortunately, it looks like Amazon has prioritized profit this holiday season over the safety of our son and the other five people,” Alice McEwan said at a press conference on Monday.
The lawsuit alleges that Amazon “carelessly demanded that people … continue to work until the tornado hit” and “wrongfully directed” McEwan and his colleagues to take shelter in a break room, which the company said the company knew or should have was to know it wasn’t. t safe.
“They had people working to the point of no return,” McEwen’s lawyer Jack Casciato said.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel issued a statement countering that the lawsuit “misinterprets key facts,” including differences between severe weather warnings and the health and safety of the building.
“This was a new building, less than four years old, following all applicable building codes and local crews were closely monitoring weather conditions,” Nantel said. “Severe weather sightings are common in this part of the country and, although precautions are being taken, do not cause most businesses to close. We believe our team did the right thing once the warning was issued.”
The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 from each of the four defendants named in the lawsuit, including Amazon.com, the construction company that built the facility, and the developer of the project.
Nantel said the company will defend against the lawsuit, but will continue to focus on “supporting our employees and partners, bereaved families, the surrounding community, and everyone affected by the tornado.”