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Mother Sues Employer for Son’s Death from Extreme Heat

26 Jul, 2023 Liz Carey

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San Antonio, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) – The mother of an employee who was accused of being on drugs has sued his employer for not providing him with any protections from extreme heat.

The mother of 24-year-old Gabriel Infante said his death in June 2022 was due to heat stroke. She’s seeking $1 million after he died on a construction job site while digging in the summer sun.

Infante was working to bury fiber optic cable on June 23 when he was reportedly confused, dizzy and passing out. Infante’s friend and co-worker Joshua Espinoza started pouring cold water over him trying to cool him down, officials said, but a foreman on the job site said Infante’s behavior was due to drugs, and called the police instead. When emergency services arrived, the foreman pushed for a drug test, the lawsuit claims.

Officials said temperatures in San Antonio were in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity levels as high as 75 percent. Infante was taken to the hospital where he was found to have an internal temperature of 109.8 degrees. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a body temperature of 103 or higher is an indication of heatstroke.

“Nobody called me. It was Joshua’s mom who called me to tell me I needed to get a hold of Joshua because Gabriel had an accident,” Velma Infante, Gabriel’s mother told the Guardian. “To this day, I have never, ever gotten a phone call from the owner of the company to offer his condolences for my son’s death. Or an ‘I’m sorry,’ or nothing like that. I mean, of course it doesn’t make a difference. But I mean, it’s the gesture. To this day no ‘I’m sorry Mrs. Infante for your loss,’ Nothing.”

Mrs. Infante said she suffers panic attacks and anxiety if her children do not return her calls.

“We have difficult days; I have difficult days. When I go out in public I put on a different face because when I get home it’s all there waiting for me. It just consumes me. I don’t sleep. I cry, I eat, and I eat junk food,” Infante said. “I don’t understand how they can allow these people to work out in this type of heat, I’ve seen so many deaths already, in different fields that you start to think what are these companies thinking?”

The recent heat waves in Texas, and the signing of recent legislation preventing municipalities from passing ordinances requiring employers to provide protections for workers, spurred Mrs. Infante into actions, she said.

Espinoza decried the recent legislation, saying that ordinances protecting outdoor workers might have saved Infante. At the time of his death, an ordinance requiring employers to provide workers with a 10-minute break every four hours was being considered in San Antonio. That bill has since been tabled due to the state legislation.

“He didn’t even get to see his first paycheck,” Espinoza told the San Antonio Express. “My friend Gabe is the epitome of why this bill is ridiculous. It’s important for us not to go backward, to learn from our mistakes … It’s blatant process over people. Greg Abbott doesn’t care about workers at all.”

As a result of Infante’s death, OSHA proposed a fine of $13,052 against B Comm Construction, Infante’s employer at the time of his death. OSHA found that B Comm failed to protect its workers from heat and hazards on the job. The company is contesting the fine.

Infante’s mother’s suit seeks $1 million in damages, and claims the lack of safeguards and protections put in place by B Comm to protect workers from extreme heat, as well as the lack of training or heat-related illness prevention programs and policies contributed to Infante’s death.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36 people died on the job due to heat-related illnesses in 2021. That number represented a decrease from the high of 56 recorded in 2020, and 43 in 2019. It was the lowest number since 2017’s 32 heat-related employee deaths.

As of June 29, 2023, 13 people had died in Texas because of the heat dome that has settled over most of Texas this summer. Weather forecasters said there is no quick end in sight for the high temperatures that have reached as high as 113 in some areas of Texas since mid-June.

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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