A lawsuit is expected to be filed against Amazon Monday on behalf of the family of a delivery driver who was killed in December when a tornado struck one of the company's facilities in southern Illinois.
Austin McEwen, 26, an independent Amazon contractor, was one of six people who died Dec. 10 when a tornado hit the Edwardsville distribution center.
According to a news release from Clifford Law Offices, the law firm representing McEwen's family, he and others were required to continue working instead of being told to evacuate when a major tornado became a possibility.
Lawyers cited reports that indicated Amazon directed McEwen and the five others who were killed to shelter in a bathroom. The attorneys claim Amazon knew or should have known that this location would not protect them.
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"Initial reports from those that survived this avoidable tragedy are disturbing," Jack Casciato, partner at Clifford Law Offices, who represents McEwen's family, said in a news release. "We certainly intend to discover what precautions Amazon could have taken to save lives. Certainly, this entire facility could have bene evacuated when it was believed a tornado was en route. It appears that holiday profits took precedence over safety,”
A complaint, which is expected to be filed Monday, alleges Amazon failed to adhere to Occupational Health and Safety Administration preparedness plans, chose to have people continue working during the peak holiday season and failed to have a facility that contained a basement shelter.
OSHA announced that it had opened an investigation in the days following the collapse.
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, released the following statement:
"“This lawsuit misunderstands key facts, such as the difference between various types of severe weather and tornado alerts, as well as the condition and safety of the building. The truth is that this was a new building less than four years old, built in compliance with all applicable building codes, and the local teams were following the weather conditions closely. Severe weather watches are common in this part of the country and, while precautions are taken, are not cause for most businesses to close down. We believe our team did the right thing as soon as a warning was issued, and they worked to move people to safety as quickly as possible. We will defend against this lawsuit, but our focus continues to be on supporting our employees and partners, the families who lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and all those affected by the tornadoes.”