Coronavirus lawsuit: widow of Turlock CA sues Safeway for death

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Turlock resident Pedro Zuniga with wife Norma Zuniga at Disney World in Orlando, Florida in 2017. Pedro Zuniga died of COVID-19 on Monday April 13, 2020 at the age of 52.

Turlock resident Pedro Zuniga with wife Norma Zuniga at Disney World in Orlando, Florida in 2017. Pedro Zuniga died of COVID-19 on Monday April 13, 2020 at the age of 52.

The widow of a Safeway employee of Turlock who died of COVID-19 is suing the supermarket business for wrongful death and negligence.

In a lawsuit, Norma Zuniga alleges that her husband caught the virus while working in unsafe conditions at the Safeway’s Tracy Distribution Center, where at least 51 workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Zuniga is claiming unspecified punitive and general damages from Safeway and its parent company, Albertsons Companies, according to the May 13 complaint before the Alameda County Superior Court. The complaint alleges that Safeway threatened to discipline Pedro Zuniga and his colleagues when they raised concerns about issues such as the lack of personal protective equipment and the way they worked closely despite social distancing directives.

The company also allegedly failed to screen employees with symptoms of COVID-19, required longer work hours, discouraged from calling sick people via demerit points, and failed to implement protective measures. security from coronaviruses, such as the provision of sanitation facilities, before Zuniga’s death.

“Safeway has placed production and profits on the protection of its workers,” said Paul A. Matiasic, lawyer for the Zuniga family, in a press release. “Tragically, the Zuniga family was forced to pay the price for Safeway’s misguided priorities. “

Pedro Zuniga, 52, had been working in the product department of the Safeway Distribution Center for about 22 years until his death on April 13, according to the lawsuit. The father of five tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after April 1 and was in a medically induced coma for one week.

Three days after his death, Governor Gavin Newsom drew attention to the Tracy distribution center, noting that 51 of the 1,700 employees there were positive for COVID-19. In Stanislaus County, Zuniga was one of the first four COVID-19 deaths reported, according to county data.

Attempts to join the Zuniga family failed on Thursday.

Safeway did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the trial. In April, a spokesperson told The Bee that the Tracy distribution center had checked the temperature of employees before entering the establishment and encouraged those who felt sick to stay at home.

“The health and safety of all of our associates is our top priority,” said Safeway in an emailed statement. “Once we learn of a positive diagnosis, we thoroughly clean and disinfect all locations and contact points with which the associate may have been in contact. “

Although Zuniga lives in Stanislaus County, his lawyers have filed a complaint in Alameda County because Safeway’s head office is in Pleasanton. Matiasic’s law firm is also working on a class action against Safeway, the statement said, on behalf of current distribution center employees.

Coronavirus lawsuit: widow of Turlock CA sues Safeway for death

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Kristin Lam is an accountability reporter for The Modesto Bee covering Ceres, Turlock and Patterson. Previously, she worked for USA TODAY as a last minute reporter and earned a journalism degree from the State of San Jose.



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