Pilgrim’s Pride removed a case claiming the company is at fault for the death of Maria Hernandez from the COVID-19 virus to the Eastern District of Texas. The plaintiffs asked for $1 million in relief after the death of their mother. The defendant claims in its notice of removal that the case discusses a federal issue.
The complaint was filed by Jose Manuel Requena and Oscar Requena on behalf of the estate of Maria Hernandez, their mother. They are represented by Williams Hart Boundas Easterby. They allege that Hernandez, an employee of Pilgrim’s Pride, died from COVID-19. The brothers claimed the company should not have moved her to another department and should have provided better protective equipment because she was at a higher risk of the disease.
Hernandez was 63, she was sent from another department to help fill in for some workers who were absent because of the COVID-19 pandemic in late April; she died on May 8 after contracting the virus, according to the complaint. She allegedly took precautions outside of work and did not refuse the move to another department only because she was faced with losing her job.
The brothers claimed Pilgrim’s Pride was negligent and should not have placed Hernandez in a situation where she was more likely to contract the virus without taking steps to ensure the area was safe. “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,” the complaint said.
They said the Pilgrim’s Pride plant at the time of Hernandez’s death had not shut down the plant for additional cleaning even though almost half of the people in Angelina County infected with COVID-19 worked at the meatpacking plant.
Maria Hernandez took one day off after feeling symptoms of COVID-19, but later went into work so she would not receive penalties. That day, after she had seen the company nurse and been referred to a doctor, the company sent home all workers older than 60.
Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation is represented by Bailey Brauer. The company noted that the complaint does not allege that Hernandez worked near someone that the company knew was infected with COVID-19.
There are multiple cases against other meatpacking companies for deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and meatpacking plants have decided to shut down for various time periods during outbreaks.