Grocery Store Sued over Employee’s COVID Death

In what might be the start of a trend, the family of a man who died from COVID has sued his employer for wrongful death. WSB-TV in Atlanta reports that the family of Gerry Gutierrez has filed suit in Miami-Dade after Mr. Gutierrez, aged 70, died from complications related to the novel coronavirus.

According to the complaint, Publix grocery stores refused to let employees wear masks at the start of the pandemic. Mr. Guiterrez worked beside a sick worker in the grocery store deli and isolated at home after Publix workers tested positive for the virus. He ultimately developed symptoms, including a fever, and tested positive for the virus. He died alone in the hospital on April 28, 2020.

Did Your Employer Prohibit Masks?

Publix eventually changed course and allowed employees to wear masks—but it was much too late to help Mr. Guiterrez and his family. The former deli worker was survived by four adult children.

Publix was not the only company that refused to allow workers to wear masks back in March and April, when the pandemic began. Some companies thought that the sight of masked employees would scare customers. However, the Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing a mask to cut down on the likelihood of transmission. Studies cited by the CDC show that masks can reduce the risk of infection by 40% or more.

Businesses that prohibited mask use could be potentially liable for running an unsafe jobsite. According to the legal complaint, Publix also downplayed the seriousness of the virus when explaining why it was prohibiting workers from using personal protective equipment, such as masks. Sharing misleading information makes it harder for an employer to defend itself in this type of case.

A Fast Moving Pandemic

Whether you have a legal claim for wrongful death will also depend on when your loved one fell ill with the virus. Early in the pandemic, information was scanty. Government officials initially downplayed the usefulness of masks.

However, your case is stronger if a loved one came down sick after the first wave, when credible information about the importance of masks was available. It also matters whether an employer let workers stay home once positive tests were reported at the job site. When employers force or pressure workers to stay on the job, then they open themselves up to liability.

Contact a Miami Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein LLP is a leading Miami firm representing family members who have lost a loved one in a preventable accident. To learn more, call our firm today at 305-371-2692 to schedule a free consultation.