On Monday, January 17, 2022, Clifford Law Offices filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a 26-year-old delivery driver who was killed after he was working at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois when a tornado struck the facility on December 10, 2021.
Austin McEwen, an independent contractor of Amazon, driving for an Amazon Delivery Service Partner, was one of numerous individuals required to work during an Amazon “peak season” when Amazon management knew that conditions were highly unsafe as tornado warnings had been issued. Tornado warnings had been issued for southwestern Illinois as early as December 9, 2021, and were re-issued on several occasions with growing concern and intensity over the next 24 hours.
Initial investigation reveals that workers at the facility, including McEwen, were required to continue working instead of being told to evacuate when it was known of the possibility of a major tornado. In addition, initial investigation reveals that the Amazon facility had no basement shelter despite this area of Illinois being prone to tornadoes, and no safety plan or adequate emergency plan required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Further, reports indicate that Amazon directed McEwen and five others that were killed to shelter in a bathroom when Amazon knew or should have known that this location would not protect them. It is believed this is the first lawsuit filed against Amazon for this tragically avoidable incident.
Early investigative reports have indicated that Amazon management knew or should have known of this tornado more than 24 hours before it destroyed the facility. The complaint alleges that Amazon failed to adhere to OSHA preparedness plans for inclement weather, could have evacuated workers but chose to have workers continue working during a peak holiday season, and failed to have a facility that contained a basement shelter. OSHA has opened an investigation into workplace safety at the fulfillment center following this tragic event.
In addition, members of Congress have sent a letter to Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos seeking answers. The E-3 tornado is reported to have hit the distribution center in downstate Illinois Edwardsville at 8:28 p.m. with winds reaching speeds of 150 mph. The roof of the massive facility collapsed, leveling the building.
The complaint will be e-filed in Madison County State Court located in downstate Edwardsville, Illinois.
Clifford Law Offices held a Zoom press conference on the filing against Amazon at 12 noon Monday, January 17, 2022. McEwen’s mother, Alice McEwen, made a statement.
The press conference can be viewed here.
For further information, contact Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell).
Photo of Austin McEwen Courtesy: Clifford Law Offices
Photo of Alice McEwen and Austin McEwen Courtesy: Clifford Law Offices