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Dallas Meat Plant Sued by Family of Worker Who Died of Virus

May 6, 2020, 5:41 PM

The family of a meatpacking worker who died because of the novel coronavirus has brought a wrongful death lawsuit in a Texas state court against Dallas-based Quality Sausage Co.

Blanca Esther Parra brought the suit May 4 after her common-law husband Hugo Dominguez died of the virus on April 25. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inspection of the incident on April 27.

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

Parra’s suit alleges that Quality Sausage breached its duty to provide a safe work environment because it didn’t provide proper personal protective equipment, enforce social distancing measures, or comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It also alleges that coronavirus infections were reported in the plant as early as April 8, and “it had become very clear that people in the factory were sick.”

A representative from Quality Sausage told Bloomberg Law that the plant “temporarily paused” April 28 and wouldn’t comment on the litigation beyond the statement it issued earlier this week.

“Quality Sausage Company has continually updated our procedures to reflect current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),” the emailed company statement said. “We have taken this action as a way to help protect the health and safety of our team members and expect to conclude our review during the week of April 27. During this pause in production, all employees will continue to be paid.”

Shayan Elahi with the Law Offices of Shayan Elahi in Dallas represents the plaintiffs in the negligence and wrongful death claim. He told Bloomberg Law that the company “refused to take the pandemic seriously, and kept its functions as normal, taking no precautions.”

“These factories have horrible conditions and there are safety hazards everywhere,” he said, adding that he filed suit before the Trump administration could potentially prevent workers from bringing wrongful death claims.

In April, a top Trump economic adviser said the administration will examine limiting corporate liability for businesses over the spread of the coronavirus.

Cause of action: Negligence, wrongful death.

Relief: Monetary relief exceeding $1,000,000.

Attorney: Shayan Elahi with the Law Offices of Shayan Elahi.

The case is Blanca Esther Parra v. Quality Sausage Co., Tex. Dist. Ct., 5/4/20.

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; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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