In the wake of the devastating tornado that struck an Amazon warehouse in Illinois on December 10, 2021, resulting in the death of six workers, legal actions are unfolding against the tech giant. As reported by Insider on January 22, the family of one victim, Austin McEwen, is suing Amazon, alleging that the warehouse was inadequately secured to the ground, contributing to the collapse.
Attorney Jack Casciato, representing the McEwen family, disclosed details of the lawsuit, emphasizing the involvement of climatologists, safety specialists, and structural engineers in the investigation. According to Casciato, the warehouse’s columns may not have been properly fixed to the ground, potentially rendering them vulnerable to being blown away. He highlighted the absence of tornado safety drills for employees and criticized the lack of appropriate storm shelters within the warehouse, despite Amazon selling such shelters on its website.
Casciato pointed out the chaotic scene during the tornado, stating that employees were not adequately prepared for such emergencies. He questioned Amazon’s decision to prioritize profits over safety, particularly by requiring employees to work during a tornado. The lawyer also expressed disappointment that Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, chose to express condolences through a tweet rather than visiting the affected site.
The McEwen family, being the first to file a lawsuit, seeks answers and justice, echoing the sentiments of other families impacted by the tragedy. Casciato criticized Amazon’s initial offer of money to the McEwen family, describing it as an attempt to “butter up” the grieving family.
An Amazon spokesperson, Kelly Nantel, responded to the allegations, stating that the company would defend against the lawsuit. Nantel clarified that Amazon believes its team took appropriate action upon receiving the tornado warning, swiftly working to move people to safety. She emphasized the company’s commitment to supporting affected employees, families, and the community.
The lawsuit, however, prompted a statement from the spokesperson, asserting that it “misunderstands key facts” and clarified the building’s compliance with building codes. Nantel also addressed questions from US lawmakers, who wrote to Amazon’s CEO Andy Jasser and Founder Jeff Bezos, seeking answers about the warehouse collapse.
The tragedy has brought to light broader concerns about workplace safety and corporate responsibility, with legal battles unfolding alongside calls for accountability from lawmakers.
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