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

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

District of Kent Municipal Hall (Adam Louis/Observer)
Kent Council examines housing issues, future prospects

Urban Matters presented a housing study to District of Kent council on Monday

Phyllis Stenson, a mainstay of the local arts scene and the Harrison Festival of the Arts, passed away earlier this month. Stenson was crucial in setting up the foundation for relationships, funding and more that continue even now to echo well past her retirement in 2013. (Contributed Photo/Harrison Festival Society)
Harrison Festival, Fraser Valley arts icon Phyllis Stenson mourned

Stenson passed away in late November, leaving lasting legacy of passion for the arts behind

Construction is expected to start in March of 2021 on 23 new rental homes funded by the provincial government’s Community Housing Fund. (Metro Creative photo)
Province announces rental home project in Chilliwack paid for by Community Housing Fund

Twenty three homes for Indigenous families are planned in partnership with Tzeachten First Nation

Canadian Red Cross staff engaged in a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and social distancing training exercise. (Luc Alary / Canadian Red Cross)
Red Cross canvassers following PHO guidelines while going door-to-door

Canvassers using safety protocols including masks and distancing to continue organization’s efforts

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Suspect tries to thwart police in Abbotsford with false 911 call about men with guns

Man twice sped away from officers and then tried to throw them off his trail

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

Most Read