Local News

Family files suit against Morrisville-based manufacturer after woman's 2015 death

Posted June 12, 2017 1:37 p.m. EDT

— The family of a 62-year-old woman who died in June 2015 after passing out at a Fayetteville manufacturing plant filed a multi-million lawsuit Monday against the company they say is responsible for her death.

Sherion Winfrey collapsed at the Mann+Hummel Purolator Filters plant, at 3200 Natal St., on June 23 and died at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.

A medical examiner ruled an aneurysm as the cause of death, but her husband said he believes sweltering conditions inside the plant played a role in her death.

Winfrey worked in a part of the plant that isn't air conditioned and where ovens operate as part of the process of making automotive filters.

The state Occupational Safety and Health Division inspected the plant after Winfrey's death and informed Purolator officials in December 2015 that the heat index inside the plant on June 23 went as high as 102.9 degrees.

Winfrey's family says she complained that morning of being lightheaded and having difficulty breathing, but no medical assistance was provided.

"A good lady, a good woman, a good wife, a good mother to her children, died because of the gross negligence of these defendants," lawyer Willie E. Gary said in a news conference to announce the suit. "Defendants that put more emphasis on making money and their profits than the safety that the workers deserve."

Purolator has made changes since Winfrey's death, including pumping cool air into the hotter sections of the plant and giving employees longer break times during hot weather.

Winfrey had worked at Purolator for 38 years and was nine days away from retiring when she died. Her husband, who worked at Fayetteville State University before retiring, said the couple planned to travel once she stopped working.

"I know this litigation will not bring her back. Nothing will," Winfrey's husband, Gerard, said. "But I do realize something good can come from her death."