The city of McAllen filed a lawsuit against a produce warehouse where a 32-year-old man and his dog died while the facility was being fumigated.
Luis Reymundo Pierda Martinez died Nov. 18, 2019, at the facility due to the inhalation of aluminum phosphate and pesticide vapors.
Martinez, an employee at the warehouse at 4314 W. Military Highway, had stayed the night at the warehouse due to a long drive to work.
The warehouse is operated by Plateros Produce and Spices and had undergone fumigation that night, a source said at the time.
The city of McAllen is suing the business for medical expenses for 11 employees from the fire department, police department and code enforcement who responded to the fatal incident.
In its petition, the city alleges Plateros Produce and Spices “created a hazardous and lethal condition by negligently fumigating its dry foods warehouse.”
When the first responders arrived, the city said fumigation chemicals were heavily concentrated in the air.
“Responders reported headache, dizziness and nausea. The first responders inhaled the dangerous chemicals, and the chemicals in the air also made contact with their skin. One adult male, and his canine, were found deceased at the scene,” the lawsuit said.
On Nov. 20, when reporters were first able to visit the scene without police tape, the smell of chemicals was still noticeable.
The city said several pesticides from United States and Mexico were found on the scene, including Fumino 56% de Fosfuro de aluminio, Real Indoor Fogger, Hot Shot Fogger, Fumiteco 56 de Fosfuro de aluminio, Agro-Fum de Fosfuro de aluminio, Fumiphos 570 de Fosfuro de aluminio, and Quick Fume.
The city said the employees incurred medical expenses in the amount of $35,214.89, which the municipality paid.
“The City of McAllen has been called upon to pay worker’s compensation benefits as a result of the incident made (in) the subject of this lawsuit,” the petition said.
Thus, the city believes it is entitled to bring this lawsuit forward.
“Plaintiff McAllen brings suit in its own name and expressly disavows any representation of the Injured Employees’ interests or any recovery beyond the amounts paid in workers’ compensation benefits,” the lawsuit said.
According to the city, Plateros Produce and Spices was negligent and breached its duty to safely and reasonably fumigate its premises to avoid a dangerous condition in several ways.
The city alleges the company failed to train employees to use the dangerous chemicals and did not supervise them while they were engaged in the fumigation.
Furthermore, the city alleges Plateros failed to contain the noxious chemicals or to warn that the premises were being sprayed with hazardous chemicals.
The lawsuit also alleges the company failed to adopt policies or procedures regarding fumigation safety guidelines and that they did not follow warning labels.
Plateros Produce and Spices has not yet responded to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday.