Texas Widow Sues Firm for Giving Drug Test to Dying Husband

Widow says late husband's employer delayed a 911 call that could have saved him.

ByABC News
June 12, 2012, 8:19 AM

June 12, 2012 — -- A Texas widow says in a lawsuit that her late husband's employer ordered a drug test on him as he lay dying on the floor -- and waited hours before calling 911.

Alejandra Perez, 56, said her husband, Benino, loved his job at Texas Industries (TXI for short), a cement and construction company. After 38 years there, he was planning to retire in two weeks. But then he had an accident at work, falling several feet and hitting his head. He gradually lost consciousness and later died at a hospital. He was 67.

Benino Perez was working as a loader and batch man at the company's Dallas headquarters on July 1, 2011, when the accident happened.

The suit, filed by Perez in a Texas district court on June 7, claims that while he "lay unconscious on the ground," a fellow employee ordered a drug test to be performed on him, and only after two hours were paramedics called.

Perez said co-workers unzipped his pants and took urine from him.

"How could they do that?" she said in an interview with ABC News. "Why did it take them so many hours to call the ambulance? Even kids know how to do that."

Perez said her husband had just had a physical about a week prior to the accident and he was "fine."

She is suing the company for $15 million for actual and punitive damages, saying the company was negligent in failing to train employees and provide proper equipment, and for the wrongful death of her husband.

She and her lawyer said they are not sure why a drug test may have been given.

"There was a total lack of training and safety equipment for Mr. Perez on the date of the accident and reprehensible conduct on the part of a worker doing a drug test on an unconscious, dying employee instead of getting him immediate medical help," said Perez's attorney, Domingo Garcia.

"He died a pretty agonizing death," Garcia said. He said Benino was on life support for several hours in the hospital before he died. "It's been emotionally gut wrenching for the family, especially for his wife. It's taken a very heavy emotional toll."

The company denies that he was given a drug test that delayed a call for an ambulance.

David Perkins, vice president of environmental, government and public affairs at Texas Industries, said the ambulance was called after one of the company's drivers noticed Benino was walking irregularly and had blood coming from his nose.

"No drug testing was performed prior to calling 911, nor was it made a prerequisite before medical attention was sought for Mr. Perez," said TXI in a statement. "At any time when a TXI employee has immediate medical needs, the first and highest priority is to ensure that their needs are promptly met. Any drug testing analysis would have been done under the care of the paramedics or at the hospital."

After the fall, Perkins said, "The driver noticed that he didn't seem like he was feeling well and Mr. Perez was prepared to go back into his loader to complete his job."

He said an employee sat with Perez after recognizing he had some type of injury when he became increasingly unresponsive.

"At that point we realized this was a significant injury so we called the paramedics," he said.

According to one witness, attorney Garcia said, cameras that may have captured the event were removed from the job site the next day.

Perkins, though, said the cameras were not facing the area in which Benino was working.

"We certainly did have cameras on site. Those were reviewed and checked and we were not able to find any evidence on the cameras," he said.

Perkins said the company paid costs for the funeral service.

"We certainly wanted to make sure we were accommodating in that regard," he said.