COLUMBUS JUNCTION, IOWA – Family members of a Tyson Foods employee in Columbus Junction who died of COVID-19 complications filed a lawsuit against the meat producer. This is the fourth family to file a civil lawsuit against Tyson.

The family of Pedro Cano claimed in court documents that he was working without suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), physical barriers and/or proper social distancing measures in the facility during late March and early April. 

Cano’s family said in the lawsuit that Tyson should have taken steps before their father was ill, citing workplace safety guidance by the Department of Labor on March 9. 

“Pedro worked less than six feet from his co-employees, and often was elbow-to-elbow with them,” the lawsuit said.

The court documents also said that Cano developed COVID-19 symptoms on April 2. By April 6, 24 employees tested positive for the virus. The plant was shut down the next day and did not reopen until April 20. Cano died due to complications with COVID on April 14.

Iowa health officials eventually found that 522 employees who worked at the Columbus Junction plant contracted COVID-19.

The plaintiffs in their lawsuit allege gross negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation by Tyson Foods.

“We’re saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with their families,” said Tyson spokesperson Gary Mickelson in an email response to MEAT+POULTRY. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our workers and we’ve implemented a host of protective measures at our facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing the virus. Currently, less than one-half of one percent of our US workforce has active COVID-19.”

Mickelson said the company could not address any other specifics regarding the lawsuit.

Recently, family members of Tyson Foods employees in Waterloo, Iowa, who died of COVID-19 complications, filed a lawsuit against the company.