Two Suits Filed Against Plant Over Employee Coronavirus Deaths

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Two more lawsuits have been filed against a company alleging that management's indifferent attitude during the height of the coronavirus pandemic caused employees to contract the disease, with the new suits blaming the plant conditions for the deaths of two workers.

Ana Eveline Perez Pineda filed the first suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Vie de France Yamazaki Inc., alleging disability discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, provide reasonable accommodation and to engage in a good-faith interactive process and a violation of the California Family Rights Act.

Pineda's husband, Jose Osvalldo Perez, and son also are plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed Friday and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

A Vie de France Yamazaki representative could not be immediately reached for comment today on the three suits.

On Tuesday, company employee Alex Hernandez and his wife, Gracie Hernandez, filed a wrongful death suit against the business, alleging that Alex Hernandez contracted the coronavirus at work and later infected his stepdaughter, 42-year-old Valerie Esquivel, who weighed 235 pounds and was 5 feet, 2 inches tall. She died in April 2020 while she and Alex Hernandez were in adjoining hospital rooms with the coronavirus, the Alex Hernandez suit states.

``Valerie died as a result of COVID-19 ravaging through her body,'' the Hernandez suit states. ``The day Mr. Hernandez was discharged is the day Valerie died.''

Meanwhile, Alex Hernandez, who hoped to work a few more years before retiring, instead had to retire in July 2020, the suit states. Like Pineda and her family, Alex Hernandez suffers from long COVID, the suit states.

Long COVID is characterized by health consequences persisting or appearing after the typical convalescence period of COVID-19 and it can affect nearly every organ system.

Alex Hernandez was a packer at the plant for more than 32 years and was 67 years old when the state's March 2020 statewide coronavirus orders became effective, his suit states.

``Mr. Hernandez was a dedicated worker, so he continued working relying on and trusting that (a) letter posted saying that there were no COVID- 19 cases at the plant was true,'' the Alex Hernandez suit states.

The third suit was filed Wednesday by Maria Martha Alvarado, the widow of the late Vie de France Yamazaki mechanic Pascual Alvarado Hernandez, and her two children, also alleging wrongful death.

``Pascual Alvarado Hernandez and his wife and children had disabilities that made them both uniquely vulnerable to death and serious illness from COVID-19,'' the suit states.

Alvarado contracted COVID-19 from a co-worker shortly after attending a meeting in small indoor cafeteria packed with 20 to 50 people, some visibly coughing with COVID-19 symptoms, the suit states. The 21-year company veteran died in April 2020 at age 61 and his relatives continue to suffer from long COVID, according to their lawsuit.

Pineda was hired in 2019 and was 51 years old when the state and county coronavirus stay-at-home orders were issued in March 2020, the suit states.

Pineda was concerned for her health because she was obese, had allergies and suffered from atherosclerosis, putting her at higher risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19, the suit states.

Pineda requested to work from home, but the plant manager and lawsuit co-defendant, Raymond Rodriguez, told her, ``We have to keep production going,'' according to her suit.

Pineda, fearing she would otherwise be fired, went to work, but many of her fellow employees did not wear masks, practice social distancing or get sent home when they had symptoms, the suit states.

``Yamazaki ignored their duty to protect their employees' health and safety or provide Ms. Pineda with the accommodation of staying home to protect her health,'' the suit alleges.

By late March 2020 Pineda herself became ill, ``feeling like her head was going to explode and having chills,'' the suit states.

Pineda was diagnosed with the coronavirus and quarantined at home, where within two weeks her husband and son also became infected, according to the suit, which further states that all three have long COVID symptoms.

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