LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - The sons of 63-year-old, Maria Hernandez, a former employee of the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Lufkin, have filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it exposed their mother to the virus, and she later died.
They are seeking more than one million dollars.
“By all accounts, she was a dedicated worker, a loving mother, and just a part of the community,” said their attorney, William Langley.
The petition reads, “While American citizens and businesses across the country were taking extraordinary steps to limit the spread and impact of COVID-19, Pilgrim’s sent an employee who had worked for the company for over 30 years into the heart of an outbreak at its Lufkin, Texas, processing plant.”
“On April 23, due to absenteeism from an outbreak of COVID-19 in the shipping and labeling department of the Pilgrim’s Pride plant, they moved her and other workers into that area to fill in for the absent workers,” Langley said.
According to the petition, Hernandez began experiencing symptoms around May 1 but went to on work May 4, to avoid risk of termination. She later tested positive for coronavirus and on May 8 became the first Lufkin resident to die from COVID-19.
“At the time, it’s our understanding that the company was aware of the outbreak in the shipping and labeling department,” Langley said. “That they knew that several of their employees had contracted the virus and so with that knowledge, they should’ve taken steps to, at the very least, temporarily shut down that area to do a deep cleaning of some sort.”
The petition reads, “The fact that Maria Hernandez, then 63 years old, was at higher risk of succumbing to the effects of COVID-19 did not stop Pilgrim’s from sending her to a known hot spot for the virus.”
“Despite being aware of the outbreak, despite being aware of the fact that a number of cases had emerged at that plant, they didn’t shut down the area, they didn’t do a deep cleaning, they sent high-risk workers into that area without adequate protection or warning,” Langley said. “And we just don’t understand how they could’ve done that, or how doing that wouldn’t be a negligent or a horrific thing to do to a faithful, dedicated employee.”
Langley said to his knowledge, Pilgrim’s Pride has not yet responded to the petition.
They are still in the discovery phase where they will be asking questions and gathering more information to confirm their understanding of the facts.