The employee died from COVID-19 complications after the retailer allegedly knew or should have known that coronavirus was present and active in the store yet failed to meet its duty of care to protect its workers.
The estate of a former Walmart employee said to have died from complications of COVID-19 contracted at work has sued the giant retailer in an Illinois state court, alleging that store management knew several workers and individuals had symptoms of COVID-19 but failed to take appropriate action to keep workers and customers safe from the high risk of infection.
Coronavirus symptoms. Before the employee died on March 25, 2020, several workers and individuals at the Walmart store in Evergreen Park, Illinois, had symptoms of COVID-19, according to the complaint. Another worker purportedly died four days later due to coronavirus complications. The estate contends that the employee and his later-deceased coworker both contracted the deadly COVID-19 at work.
Negligence and wrongful death. Walmart owed a duty to the employee “to exercise reasonable care in keeping the store in a safe and healthy environment and, in particular to protect employees, customers and other individuals within the store from contracting COVID-19 when it knew or should have known that individuals at the store were at a very high risk of infection and exposure due to the high volume of individuals present at and circulating throughout the store on a daily basis,” the complaint states.
Walmart was purportedly negligent by failing to:
- Cleanse and sterilize the store in order to prevent COVID-19 infection;
- Implement, promote and enforce social distancing guidelines promulgated by the federal and state governments;
- Provide the employee and other workers with personal protective equipment such as masks, latex gloves, and other devices designed to prevent COVID-19 infection;
- Warn the employee and other workers that various individuals were experiencing symptoms at the store and may have been infected by the coronavirus, which was present and active within the store; and
- Address other workers at the store who communicated to management that they were experiencing COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
The complaint further alleges that Walmart was negligent in failing to, among other things, follow COVID-19 guidelines issued by OSHA and the CDC, including not providing employees with antibacterial soaps and wipes and other cleaning agents, and not developing policies and procedures to promptly identify and isolate sick people as also recommended by the CDC.
Other misconduct. The estate has also alleged a wrongful death claim for willful and wanton misconduct against Walmart, as well as claims under the Illinois Survival Act and Illinois Family Expense Statute. The estate also brought negligence, Illinois Survival Act, and Illinois Family Expense Statute claims against the shopping center in which the Walmart store is located.
The lawsuit, Estate of Evans v. Walmart, Inc., and J2M-Evergreen, LLC, was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois; the case is No. 2020L003938.
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