By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) - The family of a Walmart Inc employee in Illinois who died after contracting COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has filed a lawsuit accusing the retail giant of failing to adequately screen and protect workers.
The lawsuit filed in Illinois state court on Monday by the estate of Wando Evans says the Walmart store south of Chicago was not properly cleaned and employees were not given masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes or other protective equipment.
Evans died on March 25, and another employee at the same store died four days later from complications due to COVID-19, according to the complaint.
Arkansas-based Walmart said it had conducted "a deep-cleaning of key areas" in the Illinois store, which has passed a health department inspection and a separate third-party review over the last week, according to a statement provided by a spokesman.
"We have taken steps across the country to protect our associates and customers, including additional cleaning measures, installing sneeze guards at registers, placing social distancing decals on the floors and limiting the number of customers in a store at a given time," the company said.
The lawsuit filed by Evans' estate accuses Walmart of negligence and wrongful death in violation of Illinois law.
According to the complaint, Walmart did not follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Labor for maintaining safe workplaces, such as implementing social distancing.
Walmart also hired new workers in an expedited process without properly screening them for symptoms of COVID-19, Evans' estate says.
Tony Kalogerakos, a lawyer for the estate, said in a statement the lawsuit was the first wrongful death case filed in Illinois on behalf of a person who has died from COVID-19.
"The Centers for Disease Control has designated Walmart stores as 'high-volume retailers," making them responsible for taking additional precautions to protect employees and customers from the spread of COVID-19," he said.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York)