Lawsuit: Amazon delayed calling 911 for worker who had fatal heart attack
The lawsuit claims workers waited about 25 minutes before calling 911 after Thomas Becker fell ill, even though there’s a fire station about a half-mile away
By Alicia Fabbre
JOLIET, Ill. — A Lockport woman is suing online retail giant Amazon, saying the company delayed medical attention for her husband after he suffered a heart attack while working at an Amazon warehouse in Joliet.
After clutching his chest and falling to the ground while on the job in 2017, Thomas Becker begged his co-workers, “do not let me die,” according to the lawsuit. But the 57-year-old was pronounced dead a short time later.
The lawsuit claims company workers waited about 25 minutes before calling the Joliet Fire Department after Becker fell ill, even though there’s a fire station about a half-mile away from the Amazon Fulfillment Center on Emerald Drive.
During that wait, no working automated external defibrillator, or AED — a device that provides an electric shock that can restart a heart in cardiac arrest — was provided to help him, the suit filed on behalf of Linda Becker claims.
“In spite of Amazon’s policy of having its own supposedly qualified medical first responders, not a single Amazon first responder came with a functioning AED to Thomas Becker’s aid,” the suit states, further claiming that AED boxes located around the giant warehouse did not actually have the devices inside.
After Joliet EMTs were called, they were further delayed by security guards “who chatted at the front desk” before giving paramedics access to the facility, the suit claims; EMTs also had to walk through the mammoth facility rather than being given access to a rear loading dock adjacent to where Becker was in distress. This further delayed their response time another five to seven minutes, according to the lawsuit and reports from the Joliet Fire Department.
The lawsuit also says Amazon officials asked Becker’s co-workers for personal information — such as his Social Security number and date of birth — before they called 911.
By the time Joliet EMTs reached Becker, he was not conscious or breathing, according to the lawsuit.
“It was selfish and reckless for Amazon to be concerned about personal data of an individual who was in cardiac arrest and to stall not only their own internal response team but also the city professionals in this particular situation,” said Willard Hemsworth, an attorney representing Becker’s widow, Linda.
Thomas Becker, who was a maintenance technician, had been working for Amazon for about six months when he died.
“He loved his job,” Linda Becker said. “He worked hard to keep everything running smoothly.”
The couple were married for 32 years and have three adult children and eight grandchildren. Linda Becker said her husband was a bit of a “health nut” who exercised regularly and tried to eat well.
Becker said she was still asleep when her husband left for work early in the morning on Jan. 23, 2017. She was getting ready for work when the phone rang. She ignored the first call, because she did not recognize the phone number.
“The second time, something told me to answer,” she said.
The person on the other line said her husband was being taken to a hospital. She rushed to meet him but he had already died.
“We had our life planned out. I don’t have a life anymore. It has left a big void,” Linda Becker said. “This has been unlike anything I’ve ever had to deal with. He loved life; he didn’t want to die.”
The suit, filed Tuesday in Will County, seeks in excess of $50,000. Becker said she filed it in part to prevent future deaths.
“I hope this never happens to anyone else,” she said.
With five fulfillment centers in Will County, Amazon is the county’s largest employer, with a reported 7,000 employees, according to the Will County Center for Economic Development. The online retailer has two facilities in Joliet, and one each in Monee, Crest Hill and Romeoville.
The lawsuit names Amazon and the facility manager as defendants. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment about the lawsuit or address its specific claims.
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