Family of Waco UPS worker who died on the job files wrongful death lawsuit

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 4:54 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The family of a young United Parcel Service (UPS) worker who died on the job in Waco in August has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company.

Jose Cruz Rodriguez, Jr., 23, was found dead around 2 a.m. August 12 in the parking lot of his work, the UPS Facility at 5700 Franklin Ave.

The civil suit was filed in the State District Court of Dallas County Tuesday. Along with UPS, two of Rodriguez’ supervisors are named as defendants in the suit.

According to the petition filed by Rodriguez’ mother and father, their son died as a result of heat stroke, which was preventable, and as a result, management was negligent.

“Jose Cruz Rodriguez, Jr. suffered hyperthermia and died as a proximate result of Defendants’ gross negligence,” the petition reads. “Plaintiffs bring this civil action seeking monetary relief under the statute and within the jurisdictional limits of the Court, including monetary relief over $1,000,000.”

While monetary damages are being sought, the family’s attorney, Rod Tanner, said the family sincerely wants to force changes on the company to protect current and future workers.

“This will haunt the family, probably, for the rest of their lives, but the lawsuit will, they believe, hopefully bring about some needed changes to make the workplace safer for other UPS employees,” said Tanner, Managing Shareholder at Tanner & Associates PC in Fort Worth.

“Under the circumstances his death was tragic, it was readily or easily preventable, and the parents are seeking justice and they also want to obtain some changes at UPS with the way they equip the trucks that package drivers use.”

The Rodriguez family holds a family photo taken with Jose Cruz at his sister's quinceañera in...
The Rodriguez family holds a family photo taken with Jose Cruz at his sister's quinceañera in March before his untimely death in August.(Photo by Rissa Shaw)

Tanner said the trucks are not air conditioned, and temperatures in the cargo holds can reach 150 degrees in the Texas heat.

“Mr. Rodriguez died of a heat-stroke that resulted from his exposure to heat in extreme conditions and inadequate cooling and hydration,” said Tanner.

Tanner says the available evidence shows UPS was “grossly negligent” with respect to the events surrounding Rodriguez’ death.

“As a package car driver for UPS, he was overcome by heat exhaustion during the course of delivering packages, that day he notified his supervisor what he was burning up by text message and that he was very ill, the supervisor, by all reports, informed him that if he turned his package car in early that day, he would be fired by UPS,” said Tanner.

“So effectively, the company prevented him from obtaining necessary medical care and treatment.”

Rodriguez was “in excellent physical and mental condition” the suit states, adding he’d completed a “comprehensive physical and mental examination” by the U.S. Department of Transportation less than a month before his death.

The petition alleges the day Rodriguez died was only the second day he’d delivered packages without a supervisor on-board.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against UPS over the years.

“Heat-related illness has been a long standing - and recurring - problem at UPS for many years. So far, UPS has refused to take the necessary measures to effectively address the problem,” said Tanner.

“By way of contrast, Amazon normally equips their vehicles with air conditioning, so there’s no reason why UPS, which receives billions of dollars in revenue every year, could not easily equip those vehicles with air conditioning and take other steps necessary to address heat related illnesses in the workplace,” Tanner added.

KWTX reached out to UPS for comment on the suit but did not immediately hear back.

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