Retailer Walmart (NYSE:WMT), which has remained open during the coronavirus contagion that's shuttered many other stores, is being sued by the family of a worker who died from COVID-19 infection complications. The complaint was filed in Illinois on Monday by the estate of Wando Evans, an employee of the company's Evergreen Park, Illinois. store who died on March 25. The wrongful death suit claims Walmart failed to sterilize the location and adequately protect employees from the outbreak, though it did not specify what sort of compensation was being sought.
The lawsuit appears to be the first major case of its kind to materialize in what must be considered unusual circumstances.
Walmart's consumer staples business has been deemed "essential" by most states and local jurisdictions that may have otherwise mandated closures of other types of retail establishments. To the extent Walmart remains open, however, it's also a potential point of transmission of the highly contagious disease. Employees must continue to stock the shelves being shopped by in-store customers as well as by fans of its curbside-pickup service. Another Walmart employee of the same Evergreen Park store also died from COVID-19 complications four days after Evans died.
A Walmart spokesperson offered a response to the filing of the lawsuit: "Within the last week, the store passed a third-party safety and environmental compliance assessment as well as a health department inspection. As an extra precaution, we brought in an outside company to further clean and sanitize all high-touch surfaces in the store." It is not clear when the first of those inspections and additional sanitizations were completed with respect to the two deaths, however.