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JBS Sued by Family of Meat Processing Worker Who Died of Virus

May 8, 2020, 6:10 PM

The family of a JBS USA meat processing worker who died of Covid-19 in Pennsylvania is suing the company in a wrongful death claim.

The suit, filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday, alleges that JBS was negligent and reckless in actions leading to the death of Enock Benjamin on April 3 “because it elected to pursue profits over safety during a global pandemic.” Benjamin worked at JBS’s Souderton, Pa., beef production plant.

JBS S.A. is the world’s largest beef processor and operates more than 60 meat, poultry, and prepared foods facilities across the U.S. Four of its facilities have been temporarily closed to prevent spread of the coronavirus, according to an April 29 statement on its website. The Souderton facility has reopened, according to the statement.

The lawsuit comes as thousands of meat processing and packing workers across the U.S., as well as U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors, have contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Other companies have already been hit with worker wrongful death suits during the pandemic, including cases against Quality Sausage and Walmart Inc.

The suit against JBS also claims that after JBS increased production during March, adding a “Saturday Kill” line based on increased demand for ground meat, Benjamin contracted Covid-19 “because the JBS Defendants inexplicably failed to take proper safety precautions to protect workers.” Benjamin’s family is requesting a jury trial.

“By keeping the Souderton plant open without providing the proper and recommended safety precautions, JBS intentionally misrepresented the safety of the facility,” the suit states.

The complaint names several JBS affiliates, including the Brazilian parent company, JBS S.A.

A representative from JBS wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Robert J. Mongeluzzi with Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky P.C. is representing the family.

The case is Benjamin v. JBS, Phila. Ct. Com. Pl, 5/7/20

Cause of action: Wrongful death, negligence, and fraudulent misrepresentation

Relief: Compensatory and punitive damages

Attorney: Robert J. Mongeluzzi with Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky P.C.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fatima Hussein in Washington at fhussein@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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