The brother of a Chicago-area Walmart employee is suing the company after the employee died from complications of coronavirus. The wrongful death lawsuit was filed Monday, and accuses Walmart of willful and wanton misconduct, gross negligence and reckless disregard. The plaintiff claims the managers at the store did not tell workers that several employees started showing symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
Wando Evans, 51, was an overnight stock and maintenance associate at an Evergreen Park, Illinois store. He started showing symptoms of the coronavirus in mid-March and told a store manager who ignored him, according to his brother's attorney, Tony Kalogerakos, reports NBC News. On March 23, he was finally sent home and died two days later. Another employee, 48-year-old Phillip Thomas, died four days later. Kalogerakos claims Walmart did not tell employees about Evans' symptoms an death. Walmart "had a duty to exercise reasonable care in keeping the store in a safe and healthy environment and, in particular, to protect employees, customers and other individuals within the store from contracting COVID-19 when it knew or should have known that individuals at the store were at a very high risk of infection and exposure," the lawsuit notes.
Walmart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield told NBC News the Evergreen Park store has already undergone a deep cleaning, but an outside company was still brought in to help disinfect the store. The company had not seen the lawsuit yet but they are taking the issue "seriously." The company added in another statement, "We are heartbroken at the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store and we are mourning along with their families."
"The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has designated Walmart stores as 'high-volume retailers,' making them responsible for taking additional precautions to protect employees and customers from the spread of COVID-19," Kalogerakos' wrote in a statement, reports ABC News. "At a minimum, they were responsible for notifying store workers that a colleague had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, providing their employees personal protective equipment such as masks and latex gloves, implementing social distancing, and sending exposed employees’ home until cleared by medical professionals."
There have been other reports of grocery store workers' deaths due to the coronavirus. Leilani Jordan, who worked at Giant supermarket in Largo, Maryland, died on April 1. Jordan, who had cerebral palsy, was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center on March 26. Giant told FOX5 she had not worked at the store since March 16.
An employee at a Trader Joe's in Scarsdale, New York also died, reports Eater. The employee, who was not identified, had underlying health conditions. The store was temporarily closed between Monday and Thursday.