The grieving family filed a lawsuit against FedEx for poor work conditions after their family member died in a forklift incident in February 2022.
According to Action News Five, the family is seeking $3.5 million in damages after their family member, 33-year-old Jessica James, died while operating a forklift, leading to her death.
The incident happened on Feb. 18, 2022, at the FedEx World Hub at the Memphis International Airport.
According to the outlet, a witness told investigators that James, the team lead in Heavy Weight Operations, was operating the forklift when the left rear wheel rolled over the curb and off the ramp, rendering the forklift stuck. James departed from the machinery and attempted to free the forklift, and another Forklift operator helped her. After several attempts, James returned to the forklift and put it in reverse, causing her to fall out due to not wearing a seatbelt. As she went tumbling to the ground, the forklift fell on her.
The surveillance video and Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) determined that when the forklift rolled back, its wheel got caught in a dip in the ramp grating.
The family’s lawyer, Jeff Rosenblum, said James had been concerned about the work conditions before her unfortunate death.
“Jessica James was operating a forklift because she was told to do it,” Rosenblum said. “She loved her job. She loved the company that she worked for. She couldn’t afford to quit. She couldn’t afford to lose her job. Nobody in our country, let alone in our community, should be asked to do something that is, I’m going to have to choose between my life and my job.”
According to Fox 13, one anonymous employee said the news of James’ death wasn’t surprising considering the dangerous work conditions.
“I see a lot of crazy things, it’s a lot of moving parts,” he said. “You’re towing thousands of pounds of cargo behind you. Sometimes you have to stop in an instant…if you’ve got 30,000 pounds behind you, that’s not going to happen.”
After investigating the work conditions, TOSHA revealed that the company didn’t ensure seatbelt usage while employers operated forklifts, FedEx failed to ensure the proper removal of damaged yard ramps, and the company didn’t provide employers with adequate training for forklift operation.
TOSHA discovered six severe violations, resulting in $26,000 in penalties.
Following James’ death, FedEx released a statement.
“The entire FedEx family is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our team member, Jessica James,” the statement read. “Jessica was a highly valued team leader at the Memphis Hub, and our thoughts and condolences go out to her family, friends and co-workers during this extremely difficult time. We are fully cooperating with the investigating authorities and respectfully ask that any additional questions be directed to local law enforcement.”