The family of a delivery driver who died last month when a hurricane collapsed at the Amazon warehouse in central Illinois where he worked, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – The family of a delivery driver who died last month when a tornado collapsed at the Amazon facility in central Illinois where he worked, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday in Madison County.
The action on behalf of Austin McQueen, 26, alleges that Amazon failed to warn employees of dangerous weather or provide safe shelter before a tornado hit the Edwardsville facility on December 10, killing McEwen and five others.
It is believed to be the first legal action taken in response to the deaths. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation.
McQueen’s parents, Randy and Alice McQueen, claim that Amazon officials knew severe weather was imminent but they had no emergency plan and employees were not evacuated from the fulfillment center.
“Unfortunately, it appears that Amazon has put profits first during this holiday season rather than the safety of our son and the other five,” Alice McEwen said at a press conference Monday.
The lawsuit says Amazon “carelessly asked individuals…to continue operating until the moments before the hurricane”, and “inappropriately directed” McEwen and his colleagues to house them in a break room, which it says the company knew or should have known wasn’t. safe.
“They had people working until the point of no return,” said Jack Casciato, a McEwens attorney who is a partner in Clifford Law offices.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel issued a statement responding that the lawsuit “misunderstood key facts” including the differences between severe weather alerts and the building’s condition and safety.
“This new building was less than four years old, built in compliance with all applicable building codes, and local teams were keeping a close eye on the weather,” Nantel said. “Severe weather watch is common in this part of the country, and while precautions are taken, it is not a reason to close most businesses. We believe our team did the right thing as soon as a warning was issued.”
The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 from each of the four defendants named in the lawsuit, which includes Amazon.com, the construction company that built the facility and the project’s developer.
Nantel said the company will defend itself against the lawsuit but will continue to focus on “supporting our employees and partners, families who have lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and all those affected by the hurricanes.”