Cargill beef plant is shown in High River Alta., on Thursday, April 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Class-action lawsuit alleges meat packer failed to take COVID-19 precautions

Eventually nearly half of the workers contracted the virus and two employees died

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Cargill Ltd. that claims the meat-packing company failed to take reasonable precautions to protect its workers in Alberta during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cargill’s beef plant near High River, south of Calgary, employs about 2,200 people. It shut down for two weeks in April because of an outbreak that affected 350 staff.

It reopened after bringing in safety measures that included temperature testing, physical distancing, cleaning and sanitizing.

Eventually nearly half of the workers contracted the virus and two employees died.

The lawsuit, which needs to be approved by a judge, was filed by Guardian Law Group and seeks damages for the harm done to family members, friends and other people who were in close contact with Cargill employees who contracted the novel coronavirus.

The plaintiffs do not include the employees themselves, who are covered by labour and worker compensation laws.

The statement of claim alleges that despite warnings and guidelines issued by the Alberta government, Cargill Ltd. failed to take “reasonable precautions” at the beginning of the outbreak to limit its spread.

“This is a sophisticated facility and a company well-versed in proper safety procedures. That’s why it’s so shocking to see them fall so far below the standard of acceptable behaviour that we expect from employers in this situation,” said Mathew Farrell of Guardian Law Group Friday.

“Businesses bear a responsibility to the community to take reasonable measures to limit the spread of this disease, and where they fail to do so, we will hold them to account for the harms that result.”

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Daniel Sullivan, a Cargill spokesman, said the company does not have a comment to make at this time regarding the class action. He gave a general statement in an email.

“At Cargill, we take seriously our responsibility to feed the world and that keeping people safe is core to our values.”

The High River plant is back at full operation and processes about 4,500 head of cattle a day — more than one-third of Canada’s beef-packing capacity.

Cargill Ltd. is a subsidiary of U.S.-based Cargill Inc., one of the largest privately owned corporations in the United States by revenue.

READ MORE: Another Cargill meat-processing plant closes after COVID-19 outbreak

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

37-year-old man missing from Cobble Hill area

He is described as a First Nations man, 5 foot 8 in height

Starvation claims Great Blue Heron in Crofton

No other contributing factors found in death during a necropsy

UPDATE: Two dead after fishing boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Three active COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island

Since July 24, Central island has had five new cases, North one, South none

Alf Todd on a mission to fight Parkinson’s disease

Todd and group hope to raise $10,000 riding bikes to Port Alberni

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

More than $800,000 in suspected cocaine seized from ship near Victoria

RCMP Dive Team suspects more narcotics had been stored below ship’s waterline

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Man accused of killing Red Deer doctor says he does not remember attack

Appearing before a judge, Deng Mabiour, 54, rambled about being sick and needing a doctor

Teen killer Kelly Ellard gets day parole extension, allowing up to 5 days at home

Ellard is serving a life sentence for the 1997 murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk

Andrew Scheer likely marking last day in House of Commons as Opposition leader

Today’s Commons sitting is one of two scheduled for August

Deaths feared after train derails amid storms in Scotland

Stonehaven is on the line for passenger trains linking Aberdeen with the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow

DFO says 5 aggrieved B.C First Nations were consulted on fisheries plan

Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations calls response ‘a sham,’ adding DFO never incorporates their views

Most Read