Aurora meat plant sued after butcher's wife dies of COVID-19

  • A wrongful death lawsuit seeks damages from the Aurora Packing Company after the wife of a longtime company butcher died of COVID-19 on May 2.

      A wrongful death lawsuit seeks damages from the Aurora Packing Company after the wife of a longtime company butcher died of COVID-19 on May 2. Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/11/2020 2:31 PM

A lawsuit is seeking damages for wrongful death after a longtime butcher at an Aurora meatpacking plant caught COVID-19 and passed it to his wife, who died May 2.

In a suit filed in Kane County, the estate of Esperanza Ugalde argues the Aurora Packing Company was aware of the COVID-19 danger and "actively created" increased risks by not enacting any type of prevention plan or giving employees personal protective equipment, or PPE.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The lawsuit states that Ricardo Ugalde, a butcher for 35 years, "stood shoulder-to-shoulder" with co-workers in a processing line and during breaks at the Aurora plant and that he contracted the virus "during the scope of his employment on April 28, 2020.

"At that time and prior to that date, Aurora Packing was made aware that other employees within the meatpacking facility had become infected with COVID-19 but took no measures to mitigate the spread of the virus within the facility despite the known health effects of the virus," the lawsuit argues.

Esperanza, a mother of four, got sick "shortly after" her husband did and died on May 2, according to the lawsuit, which contends the company "actively created" additional risks by not enacting a plan, disinfecting the plant, following Centers for Disease Control guidelines such as social distancing or giving their employees personal protective equipment.

A message left at the company was not returned; Bridget Duignan, an attorney for Esperanza Ugalde's estate, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A message atop the company's website, aurorabeef.com, says the company "takes pride in the various safety programs in place that are designed to protect our employees. In response to the COVID-10 pandemic, we have taken a proactive approach to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Aurora Packing Company is committed to provide a safe workplace for everyone. We will continue to monitor the situation and update our COVID-19 response, as necessary."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages in excess of $50,000 and both sides are due in Kane County court on Oct. 20.

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