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Widow Sues Cintas, Lavatec Over Accident

Bruce Beggs |

TULSA, Okla. — The widow of a man who died in a March 6 accident at the Cintas plant here has sued the uniform provider and an equipment manufacturer in connection with the incident, according to court records.
Attorneys representing Amalia Diaz Torres, widow of Eleazar Torres-Gomez, filed the civil lawsuit July 16 here in Tulsa County District Court. Defendants are Cintas Corp., Lavatec Inc. and three employees of Cintas’ Tulsa plant.
Torres-Gomez, 46, became trapped in an industrial dryer that was in operation. Other workers found his body in the dryer about 20 minutes after it had started. The lawsuit says he died of “trauma and thermal injury.”
There are claims that a conveyor system that moves clothes between washers and dryers in the facility dragged the victim into the dryer. Cintas President/CEO Scott Farmer wrote in a letter to company employees following the incident that the victim “climbed on top of a moving conveyor to dislodge a jam, contrary to all safety training and procedures, and fell into a dryer.”
The negligence suit alleges the victim died because Cintas and Lavatec failed “to inspect, service, monitor and service machinery” and because Cintas employees “allowed Eleazar Torres-Gomez to work on dangerous machinery without supervision or providing devices used to protect Eleazar Torres-Gomez from injury.”
Pam Lowe, vice president of corporate communications for Cintas, confirmed that the company has been served with the lawsuit. When asked if Cintas has made any changes to the equipment in Tulsa that was involved in Torres-Gomez’s death or to the loading or unloading procedures there, Lowe said she couldn’t comment due to the pending litigation.
In response to the allegations the lawsuit contains, Lowe offered the following: “Employee safety has always been a top priority for Cintas, demonstrated by our safety record that is 20-30% better than the industry average,” she says. “We continue to stand by our commitment to the safety and well-being of our employee-partners. We are deeply saddened by the accident that occurred this spring and continue to fully cooperate with OSHA’s investigation.”
A message seeking comment from Lavatec regarding the lawsuit was not returned.
The lawsuit seeks actual damages and punitive damages exceeding $10,000 each.
Torres-Gomez’s death prompted several Democratic members of Congress to ask the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate alleged machinery safety hazards at Cintas’ industrial laundries nationwide.
 

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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