A Cumberland County man filed what he called a “multi-million dollar” lawsuit in the Durham County Courthouse on Monday, alleging that a Fayetteville-based manufacturer was responsible for his wife’s death at work in 2015.
Gerard Winfrey announced in a press conference outside the courthouse on Monday that he was seeking damages for the death of his wife Sherion Winfrey – who died while working in a non-air-conditioned part of the Mann+Hummel Purolator Filters plant in Fayetteville in June 2015.
The family’s attorney called temperatures at the plant the day she died “inhumane,” ranging anywhere from 100 to 110 degrees in the non-air-conditioned areas of the plant.
Sherion Winfrey, who was 62 years old, was only eight days away from retirement when she collapsed and died at work. She had worked for the company for 39 years.
A medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was an aneurysm – but the family contends that the hot working conditions caused her death. A state Occupational Safety and Health Division inspection of the plant found that the heat index inside the plant on June 23 went as high as 102.9 degrees, according to a 2016 report by WRAL.
“I know this litigation will never bring her back, but hopefully some good will come of it,” Gerard Winfrey said at the press conference while fighting back tears.
The family is represented by the Florida-based attorneys Willie Gary and Glenn Crickenberger as well as the Durham-based attorneys James Williams and Geeta Kapur.
“A woman ... died because of the gross negligence of these defendants – defendants who put more emphasis on making money and their profits than the safety that the workers deserved,” said Gary, who has won multi-million dollar verdicts against Walt Disney and Anheuser Busch in the past.
Gary added that the company knew the plant was dangerously hot but did not provide proper ventilation or air circulation.
The family is calling for a jury trial.
The attorneys decided to file the lawsuit in Durham County rather than in Cumberland County because they wanted a more neutral venue for the case, as Purolator is a large employer in the county.