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Mom of 16-Year-Old Who 'Was Severely Injured and Killed' While Working at Poultry Plant Files Lawsuit

Duvan Perez was attempting to sanitize a “still-energized machine,” he got “caught in the rotating shaft” and was pulled in, per the complaint

<p>Duvan Perez Facebook</p> Duvan Perez

Duvan Perez Facebook

Duvan Perez
  • Edilma Perez Ramirez has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mar-Jac Poultry after her son, Duvan Perez, "was severely injured and killed" while cleaning machinery at a facility in Mississippi in July 2023

  • Mar-Jac and its employees are accused of knowingly operating the machine while the 16-year-old was in a position where he could be pulled into the machine

  • The teen was also "not properly trained or qualified” for the job, which he was doing underage, per the lawsuit

The mother of a 16-year-old boy who died while working at a poultry factory in Mississippi has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the companies that hired and employed her son.

Edilma Perez Ramirez is suing Mar-Jac Poultry and others more than six months after her son Duvan Perez “was severely injured and killed” at the processing facility in Hattiesburg, according to court documents filed with the Forest County Circuit Court on Feb. 1 and viewed by PEOPLE.

Perez was doing a deep clean of the deboning area and attempting to sanitize “the still-energized machine,” he got “caught in the rotating shaft” and was pulled in, per the complaint. He was fatally injured as a result.

The plaintiffs accuse Mar-Jac and its employees of knowingly operating the machine while Perez was in a position where he could be injured. The plaintiffs claim the cleaning procedure “circumvented proper safety procedures and industry standards,” as well.

Related: Calif. Couple Sues Hyatt Hotels After Toddler Fell to His Death Through Window at Mexico Resort

Mar-Jac is also accused of allowing the 16-year-old to perform such cleaning duties with, according to the complaint, "actual or constructive knowledge" that Perez was under the legal age to do so, “and was not properly trained or qualified."

The plaintiffs claim that Onin Staffing had "actual or constructive knowledge" that Perez was not of age or legally trained for the job when assigned for employment. Mar-Jac claims "that it relied upon Onin Staffing to ensure that workers such as Perez were of proper age and qualifications," per complaint.

A subsequent investigation, conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, determined that "procedures were not utilized" to ensure the machine would not unintentionally turn on while it was being cleaned, per the complaint.

Mar-Jac and Onin Staffing did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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In a statement previously obtained by PEOPLE, Mar-Jac said they "would never knowingly put any employee, and certainly not a minor, in harm's way but it appears, at this point that the investigation, that this individual's age and identity were misrepresented on the paperwork."

"We are devastated at the loss of life, and deeply regret that an underage individual was hired without our knowledge," the company added. "The company is undertaking a thorough audit with the staffing companies to ensure that this kind of error never happens again."

Related: Chocolate Factory Explosion Kills 7 in Pennsylvania: 'A Devastating Loss'

OSHA cited Mar-Jac with 17 violations — 14 of which are considered serious — in connection with the deadly incident and “has proposed $212,646 in penalties,” according to a Jan. 16 news release.

Kurt Petermeyer, a regional administrator for OSHA, said Mar-Jac was aware of how dangerous the machine could be at the time of the incident, according to a statement in the news release.

“The company’s inaction has directly led to this terrible tragedy, which has left so many to mourn this child’s preventable death,” Petermeyer said.

Related: Woman Says Falling into Liquid Chocolate Saved Her Life at Penn. Factory Explosion That Killed 7

Perez is the third employee to die at the Mar-Jac facility in less than three years, according to the complaint. Joel Velasco Toto, 33, died on Dec. 15, 2020 after a "co-worker inserted an air compression hose into his rectum and released air," which resulted in fatal injuries, per the lawsuit.

Bobby Butler, 48, died on May 31, 2021 after his shirt sleeve got caught in a machine, causing him to get pulled in. Petermeyer said Mar-Jac “should have enforced strict safety standards in its facility” following Butler’s death.

Mar-Jac has been fined for safety violations in the past, as well, according to the complaint. In 2009, OSHA proposed approximately $380,000 in fines against Mar-Jac for various “willful” health and safety violations, per the complaint. The complaint states that company was also fined $27,000 following the May 2021 incident.

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