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Mother Sues Poultry Plant Over 16-Year-Old Hattiesburg Worker’s Death

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The mother of a 16-year-old who died in a workplace accident at a Mississippi poultry factory is suing the companies that hired and employed him, accusing them of failing to follow safety standards that could have prevented his death.

In court papers filed at the Forest County Circuit Court last week, attorneys for Edilma Perez Ramirez said Mar-Jac Poultry skirted safety protections, leading to the death of her son Duvan Perez. The lawsuit follows a January report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration that declared numerous safety violations related to the death of the teenager, who immigrated to Mississippi from Guatemala years ago.

“Mar-Jac and its affiliates have a long and sordid history of willful disregard for worker safety,” the lawsuit reads.

A Mar-Jac spokesperson did not respond to email and phone messages Tuesday. In previous statements, the company has said it relied on a staffing agency to hire workers and didn’t know Duvan was underage. Federal labor law bans the hiring of minors in several hazardous work sites, including slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.

In July, Duvan became the third worker to die in less than three years at the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, plant owned by Mar-Jac, a Georgia-based poultry production company.

In 2020, 33-year-old Joel Velasco Toto died after a co-worker “inserted an air-compression hose into his rectum,” the lawsuit says. In 2021, 48-year-old Bobby Butler died after becoming entangled in a machine he was cleaning.

Workplace safety officials launched an investigation into Duvan’s death in July. OSHA investigators found that he was killed while performing a deep clean of a machine in the plant’s deboning area. He became caught in a still-energized machine’s rotating shaft and was pulled in, officials said.

The lawsuit says that Mar-Jac allowed Duvan to clean the equipment despite his age and alleged improper training.

Attorneys for Perez Ramirez also sued Onin Staffing, an Alabama-based company that does business in Mississippi. The staffing agency assigned Duvan to work at the plant even though it knew he was a minor, the lawsuit says. After Duvan’s death, Onin

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