Hattiesburg, Mississippi – The mother of a 16-year-old boy who tragically died while working at a poultry factory in Mississippi has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the companies that hired and employed her son. Edilma Perez Ramirez is seeking justice for her son, Duvan Perez, who was fatally injured while cleaning machinery at the facility in July 2023. According to court documents filed with the Forest County Circuit Court on Feb. 1, Perez was severely injured and killed at the processing facility operated by Mar-Jac Poultry and others.
The lawsuit alleges that Perez was not properly trained or qualified for the job, which he was doing underage. The complaint states that while attempting to sanitize “the still-energized machine” during a deep clean of the deboning area, Perez got “caught in the rotating shaft” and was fatally injured as a result. The plaintiffs accuse Mar-Jac and its employees of knowingly operating the machine while Perez was in a position where he could be injured, and claim that the cleaning procedure circumvented proper safety procedures and industry standards.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that Mar-Jac allowed the 16-year-old to perform cleaning duties with knowledge that he was not of legal age or properly trained for the job. Additionally, the plaintiffs claim that Onin Staffing, the company that assigned Perez for employment, also had knowledge of his underage status and lack of proper training. OSHA conducted an investigation and found that procedures were not utilized to ensure the machine would not unintentionally turn on while it was being cleaned.
Mar-Jac and Onin Staffing did not immediately respond to requests for comment. OSHA has cited Mar-Jac with 17 violations in connection with the incident, 14 of which are considered serious, and has proposed $212,646 in penalties. The regional administrator for OSHA, Kurt Petermeyer, stated that Mar-Jac’s inaction directly led to the tragic incident, leaving many to mourn Perez’s preventable death.
This is not the first time Mar-Jac has faced safety violations. According to the complaint, two other employees died at the facility in less than three years due to work-related incidents. Joel Velasco Toto died after a co-worker inserted an air compression hose into his rectum, causing fatal injuries, and Bobby Butler died after his shirt sleeve got caught in a machine, leading to a fatal accident. These incidents raise concerns about the company’s enforcement of strict safety standards in its facility.
The tragic loss of these workers underscores the importance of adhering to safety regulations and ensuring proper training and supervision of employees, especially young workers. The lawsuit seeks to hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence and lack of adherence to safety protocols, in the hopes of preventing similar incidents from occurring in the future.