Amazon warehouse builders, developers settle wrongful death suit for $250K

Alice and Randall McEwen, whose son Austin died in the collapse of Amazon’s Edwardsville warehouse in 2021 during a tornado, settled claims against six defendants for $165,000 and received 36% of the proceeds.

Circuit Judge Sarah Smith approved the settlement on Aug. 23, awarding the Chicago firm of Robert Clifford $55,000 for fees and $50,000 for expenses.

Alice and Randall McEwen each received $30,000.

They released claims against builder Contegra, developer Tristar, lot owner Gateway East 9B, Cassiday Construction, McNealy Engineering, and Quality Testing and Engineering.

Their claims against Amazon remain pending.

Six individuals died at Amazon’s warehouse in Edwardsville in December 2021, when a tornado ripped off a roof that had provided support from above for concrete walls.

Three plaintiffs sued Amazon in Madison County, and five sued in St. Clair County.

Amazon petitioned the Supreme Court to consolidate all cases in Madison County for pretrial and assigned them to Smith.

The Supreme Court Justices granted Amazon’s motion but ruled it would apply only to pretrial proceedings.

Amazon and other defendants moved in Smith’s court for a more convenient forum for the St. Clair County cases.

They stated none of the St. Clair County plaintiffs resided there.

They claimed the warehouse was rebuilt and a site visit would benefit jurors.

On Aug. 17, Smith denied a defense motion to retain jurisdiction over St. Clair County cases for trial.

“It is not unfair under the circumstances of this case for the citizens of St. Clair County to assess the conduct of a St. Clair County business,” she wrote.

Smith found that St. Clair County jurors have an interest in that conduct in light of Amazon having built a similar distribution center in East St. Louis.

Smith wrote that she wouldn’t take it upon herself to presume the Supreme Court wanted all the Amazon cases to be tried in Madison County.

She added that their directive specified their consolidation was for pretrial purposes only.

Smith found the burden was on the defendants to show that relevant factors strongly favored disturbing the choice of plaintiffs.

She found defendants had to show that St. Clair County was inconvenient to Amazon and that Madison County was more convenient to all parties.

She added that analysis of a forum motion begins with the plaintiff’s choice in the lead.

Smith found that neither party claimed documentary evidence was located in one forum more convenient than the other.

She concluded that the utility of visiting the location was unclear and the decision should be left to the trial judge.

She noted that defendants didn’t argue there would be any difficulty in securing attendance of witnesses or any inconvenience of trial counsel.

Smith held that Madison and St. Clair counties have similar dockets and case loads.

She added that defendants have voluntarily traversed and conducted business in St. Clair County.

This article was first published in Madison Record.

Leave a Reply