MAYFIELD, Ky. — At least three survivors of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory collapse are suing the company over its actions and comments in the wake of the deadly tornado that killed at least eight workers, an attorney for the employees said Wednesday morning.
Washington, D.C.-based attorney Amos Jones said he has been working with three employees who survived after the factory that was destroyed by a tornado Friday evening with 110 workers inside.
The company has said eight workers died and 102 survived. The state is working to verify that information.
“We have identified six causes of action before, during and after the tornado at the Mayfield Consumer Products Plant,” Jones said in an interview with The Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network. “We will be filing formally very soon.”
Jones declined to say what the causes of actions are, when the lawsuit will be filed and whether it will be filed in state or federal court.
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The only client Jones identified is 20-year-old Elijah Johnson. The others, he said in a statement, “are not being identified by name because of real-time reprisals that already have begun.”
Jones said he has sent Mayfield Consumer Products, its CEO Troy Propes and its spokesperson Bob Ferguson a “cease-and-desist” to stop claiming that candle factory employees could have left at any point and that their jobs were not threatened for leaving before the tornado demolished the factory.
Jones said he is giving the company until 5 p.m. Wednesday to comply and retract its statements. He provided an email to The Courier Journal that was sent to the email address for The Hawskbill Group, a consulting firm for which Ferguson is CEO, at 11:50 p.m. Tuesday.
Jones said he tried to call Ferguson this morning.
Ferguson told The Courier Journal on Wednesday morning the company has not received a cease-and-desist request or any notice of pending litigation. Asked if he stands by his earlier comments to The Courier Journal that employees’ claims of being threatened over leaving the candle factory were “incredibly false,” he said “of course.”
“We understand we live in a very litigious world and are not surprised that profit-seeking litigators are already poring over this area,” Ferguson told The Courier Journal on Wednesday morning.
Jones said he has “corroborating recorded evidence” that candle factory workers were told they could lose their jobs if they left Friday before the tornado, but he declined to share it.
The attorney will guest host a live radio dial-in program on Washington, D.C.-area station WGBR Friday at 7 p.m., where Mayfield Consumer Products factory survivors will “share their accounts of being supervised into injurious submission while witnessing the deaths of colleagues,” according to a news release.
Asked if he is working with families of deceased employees, Jones replied, “at least one family is represented.”
Late Tuesday evening, Propes, the CEO of Mayfield Consumer Products, announced in a news release the company is “immediately retaining an independent expert team to review the actions of our management team and employees on the evening when a tornado struck our facility.”
“We’re confident that our team leaders acted entirely appropriately and were, in fact, heroic in their efforts to shelter our employees,” Propes said. “We are hearing accounts from a few employees that our procedures were not followed. We’re going to do a thorough review of what happened, and we’re asking these experts to critique our emergency plans and to offer any suggestions on ways they may be improved, if any.”
He said the company is giving all employees $1,000 to “assist them in covering short-term financial needs” and will continue to provide support.
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Contact Ben Tobin on Twitter @Ben__Tobin.