Bumble Bee Foods To Pay $6M In Workplace Wrongful Death SettlementAugust 14, 2015
San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods, makers of canned tuna and other food products, agreed to pay $6 million in a workplace wrongful death settlement. The amount is the largest workplace wrongful death settlement in California history. The company agreed to pay the amount to settle criminal charges involving a worker who died in a pressure cooker accident. The family of Jose Melena will receive $1.5 million as part of the settlement agreement. The company must also implement safety measures to prevent such an accident from happening again.
Details of the Workplace Wrongful Death Settlement
The workplace wrongful death settlement stems from an incident in October 2012. Jose Melena was working at the company’s Santa Fe Springs tuna processing plant. He stepped inside a giant pressure cooker designed to cook up to six tons of canned tuna. A co-worker loaded and turned on the pressure cooker while Mr. Melena was inside. The record-setting workplace wrongful death settlement came in part because the company did not have adequate safety procedures to allow Mr. Melena to escape the cooker once it closed.
Workplace Wrongful Death Settlement Forces Factory Safety Upgrades
After the incident, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office pursued criminal charges against Bumble Bee, plant Operations Director Angel Rodriguez, and former safety manager Saul Florez. Prosecutors charged each party with three counts of violating federal workplace safety regulations that caused a death. The workplace wrongful death settlement included plea bargains for each party. Under the workplace wrongful death settlement, Bumble Bee must upgrade its ovens and improve its worker safety training programs at a cost of nearly $3 million.
Workplace Wrongful Death Settlement Allows Managers to Avoid Jail Time
The workplace wrongful death settlement also allowed the two plant managers to avoid jail time for their parts in the incident. Mr. Flores was sentenced to three years probation and will pay $19,000 in fines in exchange for a guilty plea on one felony count of violating a workplace safety rule that caused a death. Mr. Rodriguez must complete 320 hours of community service and pay $11,000 in fines in exchange for a guilty plea on a misdemeanor count. If not for the workplace wrongful death settlement, each man could have faced sentences of up to three years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Family Can Receive More After Workplace Wrongful Death Settlement
The terms of the workplace wrongful death settlement do not prevent Mr. Melena’s family from pursing legal action against Bumble Bee Foods. The family is also eligible to receive workers compensation from the state due to the nature of Mr. Melena’s death. The family released a statement after the terms of the workplace wrongful death settlement were made public. The statement read in part that “much can be done to ensure this terrible accident does not happen again.”
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