On February 5, our firm secured an important victory for the family of Gerry Gutierrez, a 70-year-old deli worker at Publix Supermarkets who died from COVID last April. In a previous blog, we discussed how Publix mishandled employee safety at the beginning of the pandemic, resulting in an infected employee being allowed to work while other employees were forbidden from wearing masks.
Our firm represents Gerry's children, who were barred from seeing their father in person when he passed away. Until today, Publix had been trying to get their wrongful death lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the case should be filed in workers' compensation court. The Honorable Carlos Lopez denied the motion Friday morning.
The Tampa Bay Times reported on the judge's decision and interviewed the firm.
"We think the judge made the right ruling and we're looking forward to holding Publix accountable," Attorney Michael Levine said in the article.
Read about this story from the following news sources:
- Judge rejects motion to dismiss a suit over a South Beach Publix worker’s COVID death
- Judge denies Publix's attempt to dismiss lawsuit over worker's Covid-19 death
- Judge denies Publix’s bid to toss lawsuit over worker’s COVID-19 death
- Judge refuses to dismiss case against Publix stemming from deli worker’s COVID death
- Fla. Judge Won't Ax Suit Over Publix Worker's COVID-19 Death
Attempting to Establish an Impossible Standard
Publix argued that the case should have been filed as a workers’ compensation case. That would have ensured Gerry’s adult children ended up with no compensation and would have allowed Publix to escape liability. Our firm argued that the case was not a workers’ compensation case based upon a plain reading of the law and that, even if it was a workers’ compensation case, Publix’s egregious conduct gives rise to a claim under the law’s intentional tort exception.
Our clients' father's death was not only predictable but entirely preventable. We will continue to fight to hold Publix accountable.
The Next Stage of the Case
Now that the Court has denied Publix's motion to dismiss, this case will move forward allowing our firm to obtain internal documents and depose Publix personnel. The Tampa Bay Times previously interviewed employees of the grocery chain who said that in March 2020, management was concerned using PPE (like gloves or masks) would scare away customers. Meanwhilie, competing stores in the area were already providing masks to employees at this time.
Our firm remains focused on getting justice for Mr. Gutierrez and the children he left behind.