Public Health

Wrongful death suit alleges Walmart failed to protect employee who died from COVID-19

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The family of a suburban Chicago Walmart employee who died from COVID-19 filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday alleging that the store failed to take steps to protect its workers.

The lawsuit, filed by the family of Wando Evans, says the Walmart Supercenter in Evergreen Park, Illinois, didn’t warn Evans and other employees that co-workers had COVID-19 symptoms, report Bloomberg Law, the Chicago Tribune, CNBC and WGN.

Evans, 51, died March 25. The Cook County medical examiner’s office said the cause of death was COVID-19 complications with morbid obesity as a contributing factor. A second store employee, Phillip Thomas, 48, died from COVID-19 complications four days later.

Walmart did not close the store, even though it knew or should have known that employees and others at the store had COVID-19 symptoms, according to the lawsuit. Nor did it prevent employees with COVID-19 symptoms from working at the store, the suit alleges.

In addition, the suit says, Walmart hired people by phone or other remote means without evaluating whether the prospective employees had symptoms of the virus.

The suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, also alleges that Walmart failed to cleanse and sterilize the store, failed to provide employees with personal protective equipment, and failed to promote and enforce social distancing.

The suit was filed by lawyer Tony Kalogerakos of Lincolnwood, Illinois. Evans was a 15-year Walmart employee who worked the overnight shift.

“It’s just unfortunate these measures were not taken by Walmart prior to these deaths to protect these essential workers,” Kalogerakos told the ABA Journal.

Walmart released this statement to WGN: “We are heartbroken at the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store, and we are mourning along with their families. While neither associate had been at the store in more than a week, we took action to reinforce our cleaning and sanitizing measures, which include a deep-cleaning of key areas. 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, which included the decontamination of front entrances, carts, registers and bathrooms, as well as food areas including produce and meat.

“Additionally, we have taken steps across the country to protect our associates and customers, including additional cleaning measures, installing sneeze guards at registers, placing social distancing decals on the floors and limiting the number of customers in a store at a given time. We’ll continue to take steps, such as screening associates, conducting temperature checks, and providing masks and gloves for associates that want to use them.

“We take this issue seriously and will respond with the court once we have been served with the complaint.”

Updated April 7 to add statement from Kalogerakos at 11:55 a.m.

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