The House of Representatives Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into the deadly Amazon tornado disaster that partially collapsed a fulfillment center in Illinois.
House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Cori Bush sent a letter addressed to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on March 31, 2022. They wrote that they were “concerned by recent reports that Amazon may be putting the health and safety of its workers at risk, including by requiring them to work in dangerous conditions during tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme weather.”
The Committee requested documents related to the company’s handling of the tragic Amazon tornado disaster that resulted in the partial collapse of a company facility in Edwardsville, IL. On December 10, 2021, the 1.1-million-square-foot fulfillment center was struck by an EF-3 tornado, which reached wind speeds of up to 150 miles per hour and inflicted major structural damage. The warehouse’s roof collapsed and 40-foot-tall, 11-inch-thick walls on the sides of the building caved in.
Inadequate Safety Protocols at Warehouse
Six workers were killed in all, including some delivery drivers who had pulled into the warehouse just minutes before the tornado struck. The victims had attempted to flee to a bathroom in an area of the building that was later ravaged by the storm.
Following the Amazon warehouse collapse, some employees near the Edwardsville facility said they felt that the company had inadequate safety protocols for severe weather events. They also alleged that they were “threatened by their supervisors with termination or other adverse employment consequences” if they left their workplace to seek shelter, according to the lawmakers.
One of the deceased workers, Larry Virden, had reportedly texted his girlfriend, “Amazon won’t let us leave.”
Amazon Tornado Disaster Lawsuit Already Filed
There is already at least one active lawsuit over the Amazon tornado disaster. On January 18, 2022, personal injury attorneys representing the family of Austin McEwen, a worker who was killed in the collapse, filed a wrongful death suit in Madison County State Court.
The Plaintiffs allege that the defendants “failed to exercise reasonable care” to protect warehouse workers like Austin and that the company chose not to evacuate employees in a timely manner before the tornado struck so that they could keep fulfilling orders.
The family’s attorneys also claim that there was a lack of appropriate storm shelters at the facility, that the employees had never received tornado safety training, and that the columns holding up the warehouse may not have been appropriately fixed into the ground – just “pegged” in. This structural defect allowed the tornado to blow the columns easily out of the ground, speeding up the building’s collapse.
Troubled by Response to Extreme Weather Events
The Committee members also wrote that they were troubled by Amazon’s response to other extreme weather events impacting the company’s warehouse workers, including a dangerous heatwave in the Pacific Northwest last year in which employees claimed that they were required to work in temperatures that reached 90 degrees.
The letter stated that Jassy needed to respond by April 14, noting that “This investigation will inform legislative efforts to curb unfair labor practices, strengthen protections for workers, and address the effects of climate change on worker safety.”
Justice for Structural Collapse Victims
There are an average of eight structural collapse disasters across the planet each year, resulting in approximately 343 deaths annually. Even survivors of these catastrophes can sustain significant injuries that may require long-term treatment at great expense.
If you have been injured in a structural collapse, you might be eligible to receive financial compensation from the responsible parties. To help maximize the amount of this compensation, consider doing what so many others have done before you and retain the personal injury attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With over $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the leading Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois. Our dedicated personal injury attorneys have the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation necessary to get you and your family members the justice you deserve.
To schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with a personal injury attorney, contact GWC today. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.