Colleen Murphy asserted claims for the wrongful death of her husband, Corey Murphy, on Tuesday and was followed by similar lawsuits brought by three other victims at the Foundation Food Group plant – Jose De Jesus Elias Cabrer, Saulo Suarez-Bernal and Victor Vellez – on Thursday this week.
The lawsuits claim Messer failed to properly maintain and repair the a cryogenic liquid nitrogen system at the poultry plant.
The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has an ongoing investigation into the incident, but has revealed some details and said the focus of its investigation is the cryogenic freezing system, which utilises liquid nitrogen, manufactured by Messer and installed by Messer in 2020. According to the lawsuits, the system was installed “in or around December 2020”.
The lawsuit brought by Colleen Murphy alleges the negligence of major industrial gas company Messer and one of its employees – also a defendant in the case – caused the liquid nitrogen leak and “directly and proximately caused Corey Murphy’s injuries and wrongful death”. Corey Murphy, 35, was a US Army veteran who had two daughters and was working as a Production Superintendent at the plant, according to the lawsuit.
“Since the initial installation of the liquid nitrogen system, Messer had received complaints about the system at the subject location,” according to the complaint filed at Gwinnett County Court.
“Despite such complaints, Messer failed to properly inspect, test, repair and/or shut the system down until it could be properly repaired.”
The lawsuit alleges a Messer employee “failed to properly repair or shut the system down and allowed it to continue to operate, leaving vulnerable workers at FFG [Foundation Food Group]” while on a visit to service the liquid nitrogen system on Jan. 26 or Jan 27.
The four lawsuits seek damages, to be determined at trial with jury.
The CSB confirmed earlier this month that both the external and the interior elements of the system were manufactured by Messer.
“The plant had been experiencing unresolved operational issues on the chicken conveyor that appear to have resulted in the accidental release of liquid nitrogen in the flash freezing bath,” the CSB said in a statement on Feb. 7.
Messer said in a statement to gasworld on Friday: “We are aware of wrongful death lawsuits that have been filed against Messer. We are reviewing the lawsuits and have no comment at this time.”