A lawsuit was recently filed against Amazon over the December death of one of its delivery drivers when a tornado slammed into a distribution center in Illinois.
Earlier this week, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Austin McEwen, the 26-year-old delivery driver who was killed on December 10, 2021 “after he was working at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois when a tornado struck the facility.”
According to the suit, McEwen, who was working as an independent contractor for Amazon, “was one of the numerous individuals required to work during an Amazon peak season when Amazon management knew that conditions were highly unsafe as tornado warnings had been issued.” For example, tornado warnings started coming in for Southwest Illinois on December 9, 2021 and were continuously re-issued over the next 24 hours as the storms became more intense.
When commenting on the suit, Jack J. Casciato, partner at Clifford Law Offices who represents the family of McEwen, said:
“Initial investigation reveals that workers at the facility, including McEwen, were required to continue working instead of being told to evacuate when it was known of the possibility of a major tornado…In addition, initial investigation reveals that the Amazon facility had no basement shelter despite this area of Illinois is prone to tornadoes, and no safety plan or adequate emergency plan required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Further, reports indicate that Amazon directed McEwen and five others that were killed to shelter in a bathroom when Amazon knew or should have known that this location would not protect them. It is believed this is the first lawsuit filed against Amazon for this tragically avoidable incident.”
“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. Certainly, this entire facility could have been evacuated when it was believed a tornado was en route. It appears that holiday profits took precedence over safety. We need to find out if training and emergency protocols were in place for those in the building as well as those who entered the building with jobs regularly connected to Amazon outside of the facility.”
Reports from investigations that were conducted shortly after the storms indicated that “Amazon management knew or should have known of this tornado more than 24 hours before it destroyed the facility.” Because of that, the suit alleges that the company “failed to adhere to OSHA preparedness plans for inclement weather, could have evacuated workers but chose to have workers continue working during a peak holiday season, and failed to have a facility that contained a basement shelter.” OSHA has since opened its own investigation into the matter and numerous members of Congress have sent letters to Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, demanding answers.