The family of a former-Amazon worker Monday filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Amazon in Illinois state court. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon failed to provide workers with proper protection or warning before a tornado struck a company facility, killing six.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Austin McEwen, 26, who was one of the workers killed when an EF-3 tornado struck the Edwardsville, Illinois Amazon facility on December 10, 2021. The tornado was one in a string of deadly tornadoes that struck the Midwest.
At the time of the incident, McEwen worked as an independent contractor running deliveries for Amazon. Workers were required to stay at the Edwardsville facility on December 10 to fulfill “peak season” orders ahead of the holidays.
According to the lawsuit, Amazon knew or should have known a tornado could potentially strike the Edwardsville facility as early as December 9. On December 10, a “take shelter now” tornado warning was issued for the Edwardsville area. The complaint alleges that Amazon instructed workers to shelter in a restroom. “They had people working up to the point of no return,” said Jack Casciato, the McEwens’ lawyer.
Amazon (both the corporation and the limited liability company), the construction company who built the Edwardsville facility and the facility developer are listed as defendants in the lawsuit. The McEwens seek $50,000 from each defendant.
Responding to the lawsuit, an Amazon spokesperson said: “Severe weather watches are common in this part of the country and, while precautions are taken, are not cause for most businesses to close down. We believe our team did the right thing as soon as a warning was issued.”
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation into the incident, this is the first known legal action against Amazon resulting from the building collapse.