Pictured above: The California plant where Jose Melena was killed 

Three years ago, in October 2012, an employee of Bumble Bee Foods, Jose Melena, was performing maintenance in a 35-foot-long oven at a Santa Fe Springs plant in California when he was killed. His co-workers loaded the oven with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and turned it on. The oven, which reaches 270 degrees, was left on for two hours in order to cook and sterilize the tuna. When the oven was opened, Melena’s co-workers found his badly burned and dead body. 

On Monday, April 27, those liable for this preventable accident have been charged. Bumble Bee Foods and two employees – Operations Director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez – have each been charged with three felony counts of violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rules that resulted in a death. These charges state that the company and its two employees willfully violated the following rules: that a safety plan be implemented, the rules regarding workers in confined spaces and lastly, the rule that requires there be a procedure implemented that would keep machinery and equipment off if any individual was in it. 

OSHA has previously cited Bumble Bee Foods for failing to properly assess the danger to employees working in large ovens and the company was fined a penalty of $74,000. Their two employees, Rodriguez and Florez, could face up to three years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines if convicted. The company itself faces a fine of $1.5 million. Bumble Bee Foods is currently appealing these penalties, claiming that they had improved their safety record after this devastating accident. 

Legal Commentary
In this situation and the accidents before it, the most pertinent legal matter to pursue is a civil case. From a civil standpoint, our firm has represented numerous families who are the victims of workplace accident tragedies. A successful civil claim will enable their families to receive rightful financial compensation. If you or a loved one was affected by this incident, or one similar, contact the experienced attorneys at Fears | Nachawati Law Firm by sending an email to mn@fnlawfirm.com or by calling our office at 1.866.705.7584.

About the Author
Majed Nachawati is a preeminent personal injury lawyer with a focus on representing victims and families involved in workplace accidents, automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, and product liability claims throughout the state of Texas. Mr. Nachawati has resolved numerous workplace motor vehicle accident cases through trial and settlement that have brought seven and eight figure confidential reward settlements. His is on the Grievance Committee for the State Bar of Texas. He is licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of Texas and Arkansas and is licensed in the Northern, Southern, and Eastern Districts of Texas. Mr. Nachawati is a member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, the Board of Directors for Public Justice, a Leader’s Forum and PAC member of the American Association for Justice. Mr. Nachawati has been recognized as a Super Lawyer in Texas Monthly Magazine for the past five years in a row for legal excellence, in connection with wrongful death and products liability cases. Mr. Nachawati is also a member of The Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Mr. Nachawati can be contacted by email or by calling 1.866.705.7584.