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Walmart Hit With Employee Wrongful Death Suit Over Covid-19

April 6, 2020, 9:08 PM

Walmart Inc. was sued Monday in Illinois county court by the family of an employee who died from Covid-19 complications in what attorneys for the plaintiffs say is the state’s first known wrongful death suit related to the pandemic.

Wando Evans, a 15-year employee at the discount retail giant, died March 25 after purportedly contracting Covid-19 at the Walmart supercenter in Evergreen Park, Ill. His family says in the lawsuit that another employee died because of Covid-19 complications just a few days later, and that “several employees and individuals at the store were exhibiting signs and symptoms of the virus.”

Walmart owed a duty “to exercise reasonable care in keeping the store in safe and healthy environment” to protect employees when it knew of high infection risks, according to the family’s complaint.

“At a minimum, they were responsible for notifying store workers that a colleague had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, providing their employees personal protective equipment such as masks and latex gloves, implementing social distancing, and sending exposed employees’ home until cleared by medical professionals,” Tony S. Kalogerakos of Injury Lawyers of Illinois LLC said in a statement.

The lawsuit also names Evergreen LLC, which allegedly owned, managed, and maintained the shopping center, as a defendant.

Walmart said it hadn’t yet been served with the complaint, but said that it was “heartbroken at the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store.”

“While neither associate had been at the store in more than a week, we took action to reinforce our cleaning and sanitizing measures, which include a deep-cleaning of key areas. Within the last week, the store passed a third-party safety and environmental compliance assessment as well as a health department inspection,” Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman said.

“As an extra precaution, we brought in an outside company to further clean and sanitize all high-touch surfaces in the store, which included the decontamination of front entrances, carts, registers and bathrooms, as well as food areas including produce and meat,” Hargrove said in an email.

He said other additional safety-related measures have been taken aimed at employees and customers at stores nationwide, such as screening employees and providing them protective wear, enforcing social distancing protocols, and installing sneeze guards at registers.

Cause(s) of Action: Wrongful death, negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, and violation of Illinois Family Expense Statute.

Relief: Relief sought in an amount in excess of $50,000 plus costs.

The case is Evans v. Walmart Inc., Ill. Cir. Ct., No. 2020L003938, 4/6/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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