The mother of a 24-year-old Mississippi man who was killed last year in a machinery accident at Omega Protein has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit was filed by the victim’s mother, Cynthia Hebert, on behalf of her son, Christopher Allen Hebert, in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. Mrs. Hebert is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
On April 9, 2012, Hebert was dragged into a conveyor after following an order from his supervisor. He died from blood loss related to his injuries.
Hebert had worked at Omega Protein in Moss Point, where they produce omega-3 fish oil, for three years.
The lawsuit alleges that on the day Hebert was killed, the safety monitor left while Hebert was inside the conveyor and another worker turned the machinery on, dragging Hebert to his death. According to the Sun Herald, a local media outlet, the victim had been assigned a new safety watchperson to aid him in completing the assignment.
“This new ‘safety’ watchperson was not the same watchperson Christopher partnered with normally,” states the complaint. After arriving at work, Hebert was directed by his supervisor to weld the seams of a newly installed hopper that released fish products into a single screw conveyor at its base. “At the time Christopher began his work, the single screw conveyor equipment remained energized and operational,” without him knowing that it was on. “While Christopher was inside the single screw conveyor,” it continues, “his safety watchperson left without notifying Christopher.” After the safety watchperson left, an Omega Protein supervisor directed another employee to turn on the single screw conveyor.
Hebert was allegedly dragged into the machine, feet first, screaming out for help. When his co-workers arrived at the conveyor, it was too late. The autopsy report revealed that Hebert died of massive blood loss.
The company operates a menhaden, or pogy, fishing fleet and processing facility in Moss Point. They produce fish oils and fishmeal for human consumption, as well as for use in aquaculture, agriculture and industrial applications.
Also named as defendants in the suit are ACE American Insurance Co. and ESIS Inc., a risk management service provider.
It is alleged that because the company did not have safety lock features on the conveyor and left Hebert alone to work on it, “Omega Protein, by and through its employees, engaged in intentional conduct designed to bring about injury, or death” to the worker.
In September 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Omega Protein with 25 safety and health violations, based on an inspection prompted by the Hebert’s death.
The EEOC proposed a fine of $79,200.
Hebert’s family seeks compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death, pain and suffering, negligence, and breach of contract. An amount is not specified.