Dallas Worker Given Drug Test As He Lay Dying, Widow Claims
Benino Perez was planning on retiring in two weeks from the job at Texas Industries he'd held for 38 years. But then he fell, hit his head and died. Now his widow is suing for $15 million, claiming her late husband was left unconscious on the ground for two hours before an ambulance was called, and in that time, an employee zipped down his pants, and took urine from him for a drug test, reports ABC News.
Perez was a loader and batch man at the Dallas headquarters of the cement and construction company. On July 1 last year, he was working "without fall protection equipment," and fell several feet, according to the lawsuit. David Perkins, a Texas Industries executive told ABC News that a driver noticed that Benino was walking irregularly and bleeding from his nose, and sat with him.
When he became more and more unresponsive, "we realized this was a significant injury so we called the paramedics."
That's not what Perez's widow, Alejandra, believes happened. According to her lawsuit, filed June 7, Perez "lay unconscious on the ground," while a urine sample was taken for a drug test. She claims that emergency help wasn't called for two hours. So by the time Perez got to the hospital, there was little to be done. He was on life support for several hours, and then died. He was 67.
"He died a pretty agonizing death," Perez's attorney, Domingo Garcia, told ABC News. Perez says her late husband had a physical about a week before the accident and was in fine health. Now she's living off the worker's compensation from her husband's death, and terrified about what will happen when the money runs out.
Perez is suing Texas Industries for inadequately training its employees and not providing proper equipment and protections, as well as wrongful death. The lawsuit seeks $5 million for damages prior to death, $5 million for wrongful death, and $5 million in punitive damages. "I miss him with all my heart, like nobody knows," she told ABC News.
Collecting evidence has been difficult, however. One witness said there were cameras at the work site, according to Garcia, which were removed the day after the incident. The company representative said the cameras were reviewed and nothing useful was found; they weren't pointing in the right direction. Perez's coworkers were reluctant to talk when she approached them at the funeral.
Texas Industries denies any wrongdoing, claims that there was no drug test, and that the ambulance was called promptly. Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration surveyed the work site after the accident, and interviewed employees, but decided not to discipline the company, reports the Dallas Observer.
The company paid for Perez's funeral. "We certainly wanted to make sure we were accommodating in that regard," Perkins told ABC News.
Most of the time it's nurses and doctors who are handed wrongful death suits, but others aren't immune. Last September, a Time Warner Cable customer service representative died on the job. A co-worker claimed that she rushed to give the woman CPR after seeing the woman slumped at her desk but a supervisor told her to "get back on the phone and take care of customers."
And in April, the mother of a woman who died on a cruise ship sued the company operating it, claiming that the ship's staff encouraged her daughter to get dangerously drunk, and when the woman cut herself and started bleeding profusely, it took an hour for personnel to bring her to the infirmary.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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