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

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

Community engagement process launched to implement northern B.C. First Nation’s rights and title

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

External community engagement process launched to help implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title

Wet’suwet’en checkpoint material remains alongside forest service road

Checkpoint featured in Coastal GasLink pipeline protests

Burns Lake local captures cycle of life

Burns Lake Brian Mailloux captured a photo of this Golden Eagle with… Continue reading

LDAC features Tweedsmuir Fiddlers and Thea Neumann at Burns Lake Community Market

The Tweedsmuir Fiddlers entertained shoppers with their performance two weeks back during… Continue reading

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

Most Read