Walmart Hit With Wrongful Death Suit by Family of Employee Who Contracted COVID-19

The family of a Walmart worker who died after contracting the coronavirus alleges the retailer’s “failure” to implement proper safety and health standards was responsible.

In a lawsuit filed in an Illinois circuit court yesterday, the estate of late Walmart associate Wando Evans, who worked at the Evergreen Park, Ill. outpost for more than a decade, claimed that Evans and other employees contracted COVID-19 while working at the store. The suit claims Walmart failed to enforce social distancing guidelines, did not properly clean the Evergreen Park location and did not “adequately address” employees who “communicated to management” that they were experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus.

“As a direct and proximate result of the … acts of negligence and willful and wanton misconduct, [Evans] was infected by COVID-19, which ultimately resulted in his death,” the complaint reads, adding that the management “knew or should have known that individuals at the store were at a very high risk of [COVID-19] infection and exposure.”

Evans died on March 25 due to complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the complaint. He had been sent home from work two days earlier. Phillip Thomas, another worker at the Evergreen Park, Ill., store, died of COVID-19 a few days after Evans, the filing said, adding that Walmart did nothing to keep workers with symptoms of the coronavirus from coming in until after Evans’ death.

In a statement, Walmart said it has reinforced cleaning and safety measures at its Evergreen Park outpost, including a “deep cleaning of key areas.” The retailer said the store passed a third-party safety and compliance assessment, as well as a health department inspection, within the past week. An outside company was also brought in to sanitize high-touch areas in the store, including front entrances, carts, registers and bathrooms as well as food areas.

“We are heartbroken at the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store, and we are mourning along with their families, Walmart told FN in a statement. “We take this issue seriously and will respond with the court once we have been served with the complaint.”

Across the country, as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Walmart has announced several initiatives it says are aimed at keeping associates and customers safe as it experiences heightened demand for groceries and household essentials. The big-box chain has limited store hours to allow for increased cleaning and restocking, installed social distance markers and sneeze guards and is screening associates and checking their temperatures. As of Saturday, the chain is limiting the number of customers in its stores to about 20% capacity as a public health precaution. Additionally, the retailer says it is providing masks and gloves for workers who “want to use them.”

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