PHILADELPHIA, May 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Union chief steward Enock Benjamin loved America, his job at the JBS slaughterhouse in Souderton, his family and his union brothers and sisters. According to the newly filed wrongful death lawsuit – the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and among a handful in the US. – Mr. Benjamin's death resulted from his contracting COVID-19 while working at the JBS plant under unsafe conditions without proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
The multi-count complaint, (Estate of Enock Benjamin v. JBS S.A et al., Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, May Term 2020, E-filing No. 2005005845), which includes claims of wrongful death, negligence, and fraudulent misrepresentation, was filed today on behalf of Mr. Benjamin's family in the Court of Common Pleas by the nationally recognized, catastrophic injury law firm of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky P.C.
Attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi said, "During these unprecedented times, we must always remember that worker safety comes first. JBS treated workers as expendable and placed them standing shoulder-to-shoulder without basic protective equipment such as masks. JBS placed profits over safety and must be held accountable."
He noted that Mr. Benjamin was a proud Chief Steward of Local 1776, United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Mr. Benjamin was a husband of 37 years, a father and had recently become a grandfather.
Steven G. Wigrizer, also a partner in the law firm, noted that right before the plant slowed production for cleaning on March 30th, "it demonstrated that it was out to make a killing in the beef market with meat for consumers becoming scarce. While it could have devoted weekends to disinfecting the plant (located at 249 Allenton Rd., Souderton) following federal guidelines, JBS instead added what it called a 'Saturday Kill' to increase production and its bottom line."
Jeffrey P. Goodman, a partner in the firm added, "By forcing workers to do their jobs without providing facemasks or taking any steps to enable physical distancing, JBS violated federal law. Sadly, the Benjamin family suffered consequences for JBS's unforgivable callousness." Mr. Benjamin is survived by Mirielle, his wife of 37 years, their two children, Debbie and Ferdinand "Cabo," and his infant daughter (pictured with Benjamin).
SM&B attorney Jason Weiss added, "The conditions that JBS workers were exposed to are repulsive. There is no question that the unsafe working environment should have been modified to adhere to CDC recommendations. Instead, workers were forced to choose between two horrific alternatives: work literally alongside those likely infected or be unable to support their families."
The Complaint names several JBS affiliates, including the Brazilian parent company, JBS S.A. for their role in the outrageous decision to accelerate production without providing adequate PPE to the workers.
According to the complaint, despite clear workplace safety warnings from the CDC and OSHA, JBS took no steps to monitor employee health and did not even provide facemasks during March 2020. During this time, Mr. Benjamin contracted COVID-19 at the plant. While at home on April 3rd, feeling short of breath, Mr. Benjamin's son, Cabo, called 9-1-1. Before EMTs arrived, his father died in his arms. JBS also failed to warn workers that others at the plant had reported COVID-19 symptoms during March and instead pushed ahead, even ramping up production to include an extra "kill day".
A copy of the filed Complaint and additional Benjamin family photos are at Benjamin Wrongful Death Filing.
SOURCE Mongeluzzi Law Firm