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Lawsuit filed against Publix after Miami Beach employee dies from coronavirus

Publix at 1920 West Avenue in Miami Beach.
Publix at 1920 West Avenue in Miami Beach. (Google Maps)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A South Florida family filed a lawsuit Monday against Publix Super Markets, months after their loved one died from the coronavirus.

According to a news release from the Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain law firm, Gerardo Gutierrez, 70, died on April 28 after contracting COVID-19 from a fellow employee at the Publix at 1920 West Avenue in Miami Beach.

The lawsuit asserts that Publix management initially refused to allow employees to wear masks and gloves in spring when the virus was beginning to spread in South Florida because they believed masks would “scare off customers.”

“That reckless decision led to Gerardo’s death,” the news release stated.

According to the complaint, Gutierrez, who worked in the deli section of the store, worked alongside a co-worker who was showing symptoms of COVID-19 on March 27 and March 28.

He was ordered to stay home days later after the co-worker tested positive for the virus, but he developed a fever shortly after and then tested positive, as well, the lawsuit stated.

“That Publix chose profits over the safety of its employees is shameful. These employees, including Gerardo Gutierrez, continued to show up at work to help our communities. The least Publix could have done was allow employees to exercise their personal freedom and protect themselves from the spread of the virus,” said Michael Levine, an attorney for the family.

Gerardo is survived by his four children Ariane, Gerardo, Rene and Jerryana.

“The sudden passing of our father has been a devastating loss to our family,” Ariane Gutierrez said in a statement. “He was a very kind, loving and hardworking man that is greatly missed by many. He was truly loved by the people in his life. Our family is in shock that Publix would prevent its employees from staying safe. Because of its careless decisions, our father is not here with us today.”

The lawsuit in seeking damages in excess of $30,000.

Local 10 News has reached out to Publix for comment but has not yet heard back.

About the Author:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.