EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Two new lawsuits have been filed in connection to the deadly Amazon Warehouse collapse in Edwardsville during a tornado. Well-known civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard are representing the plaintiffs.

The first lawsuit is filed on behalf of Deon January, the mother of DeAndre Morrow. Morrow was one of six workers to die in when the tornado hit the facility.

The other lawsuit is for four Amazon drivers who survived the collapse but suffered physical or mental harm from the collapse.

The complaints state Amazon was warned by the National Weather Service about possible tornadoes in the area of the warehouse as far as 36 hours ahead of the collapse. The complaint states that after receipt of the tornado warnings, Amazon allegedly did not change the employee work schedule and refused to allow employees from taking time off until the storm passed.

The lawsuit explains that drivers Evan Jensen, Jada Williams, and Deontae Yancey all tried to leave the facility and seek shelter at home, but were threatened with termination by Amazon management.

There were additional tornado warnings between 8:06 p.m. and 8:16 p.m. and the suit claims Amazon responded by warning only a portion of the employees and instructing them to retreat into the warehouse restrooms for safety.

The suit also contains a text message from Yancey, showing a message he received from a manager around 6:32 p.m. asking him to go rescue a fellow driver. Yancey refused to participate in the rescue and when he returned to the warehouse was directed to take shelter in a bathroom at the north end of the warehouse. He attempted to leave the warehouse but a warehouse official told him to “stay put and not to leave.”

“Amazon had numerous warnings and opportunities to put their employees’ safety first, but they chose their bottom line instead,” said Crump. “As a result, six people needlessly lost their lives and many others suffered injury and mental anguish that will likely last a lifetime. Amazon required their employees to work just moments before the tornado destroyed the fulfillment center, despite their pleas to seek shelter at home with their loved ones. It was Amazon’s responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers and they failed in every respect.”

As alleged in the complaint, the additional failures of Amazon to protect its employees are extensive and include:

  • Failing to warn about or mitigate known safety risks and hazards;
  • Failing to have a basement shelter or actual shelter;
  • Failing to implement proper safety procedures in the event of an evacuation or natural disaster and follow procedures while the natural disaster was unfolding;
  • Failing to properly monitor inclement weather prior to the tornado hitting the fulfillment center;
  • Failing to operate, maintain, and manage a warehouse in an area prone to tornadoes that was built to withstand tornado size gusts; 
  • Failing to provide a safe room and ensure that employees were in the safest place in the fulfillment center when the tornado touched ground;
  • Requiring employees to continue working until the moments before the tornado struck when Amazon knew or should have known the tornado was imminent;
  • Failing to timely inform individuals at the subject fulfillment center that a tornado was approaching so those individuals had adequate time to properly shelter or evacuate; and
  • Failing to evacuate all those present at the subject delivery station when Amazon knew or should have known that keeping individuals working at the center, including DeAndre Morrow, placed them in imminent danger when Amazon knew or should have known the area was at risk of a tornado.

The complaint also says this incident is only the latest in a pattern of Amazon disregarding employee safety and ignoring weather warnings. The suit mentions 14 employees died in September 2021 during Tropical Depression Ida, accusing Amazon of ignoring similar warning by the National Weather Service about the pending storm.

The suit also accuses Amazon for not taking adequate measures during record-breaking heat near the Bessemer, Alabama facility which lead to widespread employee health issues and the death of an employee.

Spectrum News previously reported that a West County EMA & Fire Protection District’s Report authored by Dan Bruno stated “…I found what I believed to be one or more significant structural issues with the Amazon building that may have contributed to the failure of the structure.” You can read more about his report here.

Spectrum News has reached out to Amazon and the other plaintiffs and we are waiting for their responses.