Turkey plant fire lawsuit moves to federal court
Contractor says Hillshire Brands’ negligence made it unsafe for welding work to be done inside Iowa plant
A lawsuit filed by a contract welder related to a 2014 Hillshire Brands turkey processing plant fire has been moved from an Iowa state court to a federal court.
Mark Druivenga, owner of Contract Welding and Mechanical, had earlier filed a lawsuit, alleging that Hillshire Brands had failed to have policies and requirements in place so welding work could be done safely inside the turkey plant in Storm Lake, Iowa. The plaintiff also alleged that the turkey plant’s fire detection and suppression systems were inadequate, according to a report from the Sioux City Journal.
The turkey plant fire occurred on March 22, 2014, as a result of a welding accident, investigators determined. The blaze caused more than $30 million worth of damages to the facility and required about 50 firefighters to extinguish. The turkey plant went offline for several months, gradually returning to full production. During the rebuilding process, the turkey processing plant's more than 600 employees remained on the payroll. Many of the plant’s workers also were involved with the reconstruction process.
The rebuilding process took place while Tyson Foods was finalizing its acquisition of Hillshire Brands. Hillshire was acquired by Tyson Foods on August 28, 2014, for a price of $8.55 billion.
Druivenga further claimed in his lawsuit that after the fire occurred, Hillshire made statements to other parties that the fire was due to his company’s negligence, and those statements were harmful to Contract Welding and Mechanical’s reputation and business.
Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands have denied any negligence.
Contract Welding and Mechanical is headquartered in Sac City, Iowa.
With Tyson Foods’ acquisition of Hillshire Brands, Tyson is now the fifth largest turkey company in the United States. According to the WATTAgNet Top Poultry Companies Database, Tyson Foods slaughtered 334 million pounds of live turkeys in 2016.