EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump has now filed two new lawsuits against Amazon claiming negligence after six people were killed in a December warehouse collapse.
Attorneys continue to focus on an incident report from West County Fire as their smoking gun in this case, but a legal expert believes these latest suits highlight an even more glaring problem across the country.
As tornado sirens sounded across the St. Louis area Anitra Lee-Cole remembers sheltering in her Florissant home.
“While we were in the basement at that time I happened to be online and saw a news story about the tornado hitting Amazon,” said Anitra Lee-Cole.
During a December interview with 5 On Your Side, Lee-Cole recounted how she had no idea at that time 6 people including her nephew DeAndre Morrow, had been killed when an EF-3 tornado struck the facility.
“I don’t even think none of us connected that he worked at that particular Amazon either at that point of time,” said Lee-Cole. “We just knew he worked for Amazon, and we didn’t know it was that location.”
According to a wrongful death suit filed in Madison County Circuit Court on behalf of Morrow’s family, he was working on his day off well past his contracted hours with Amazon.
“He was trying to save up money because he wanted to take his girlfriend to propose to her,” said Lee-Cole.
The central piece to the family’s lawsuit —and a separate suit filed on behalf of four survivors claiming to suffer from PTSD from the event— is a report from West County Fire investigator Dan Bruno stating in part: “I found what I believed to be one or more significant structural issues with the Amazon building that may have contributed to the failure of the structure.”
“The thing that caught my eye is that they were able to cite a number of other instances in which Amazon’s buildings were destroyed through what they allege are faulty or negligence on behalf of the engineers and the contractors,” said attorney John Lynch.
Contegra Construction, who built the Edwardsville facility, recently issued a statement noting that Bruno isn’t a licensed structural engineer in Illinois though legal expert John Lynch says that may not matter.
“You can have a non-expert, expert witness, so to speak,” said Lynch.
Contegra has contended that the structure was built to code, which means withstanding 90mph winds, and Lynch says that could be what makes all the difference in this case.
“The caveat or asterisk if you will in this particular case has to do with the fact that it was an act of God that destroyed that building,” said Lynch. “As everyone knows a lot of times in insurance policies acts of God are exempted.”
Amazon declined to comment on this story.