JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Multiple Jackson families are back in court again. They are suing Frito-Lay. Taking on the chip giant over what they see as wrongful deaths of family members who worked at their Jackson plant.
From 1974-1999 Frito-Lay employed hundreds of people at their food plant. Including Jimmie Ruffin who worked as pest control and machine operator. Positions his son claims exposed him and many others to Asbestos leading to Mesothelioma.
“Regulations as far as safety equipment and masks with the way they sprayed the area you were just breathing this stuff in,” Reggie Ruffin argued. “And it was going on for years. Some people were getting sick while they were working there.”
As Ruffin dug deeper, he learned his dad’s death in 2010 from stage IV lung cancer wasn’t the only one among plant workers. Vital records given to 12 News show Barry Hubbard passed away from Mesothelioma in 2013. One year later Ethel Cooper died from cardiac arrest. All worked at Frito-Lay doing similar jobs.
“He was diagnosed at 46 and died at 47,” Wido Robbin Hubbard stated. “So he didn’t live all his life and that took a toll on us and family. To this day we still miss him. It was a big surprise, he was never a smoker.”
“Some of the pesticides as we did our research found they cause cancer,” Ruffin claimed. “They were not banned back in the 1980s. By that time it was truly embedded in a lot of the employees here.”
To receive compensation Mississippi’s statute of limitation laws state claims must be filed within three years of a patient being diagnosed or dying. Ruffin argues Frito-Lay purposely kept the risk a secret to keep people unaware.
“They were ghosting all of us because I just stumbled upon this scrolling through the website and saw the Frito-Lay Settlement fund,” Ruffin said. “I started making a call. Next thing I know I’m hearing about 5-10 other people who had cancer and passed away.”
“The Chemicals were so strong that when we come in we couldn’t do anything but throw up,” Patricia Johnson, a former plant worker told us. “It was just that strong. Sanitation workers, they would have to inhale all those chemicals and they were the first to pass away.”
Since the 1990s, nearly 10 years before Frito-Lay’s Jackson plant closed OSHA required employers to ‘inform’ employees working in areas containing Asbestos material.
This isn’t the first time employees of Frito-Lay have clashed with management over alleged Asbestos exposure.
The Mesothelioma Legal Help Center includes Frito-Lay delivery truck mechanics as being exposed and eligible for compensation. The class-action lawsuit filed by Reggie Ruffin is being heard in the Mississippi Southern District Federal Court.
12 News reached out to Frito-Lay for comment. They pointed us to the first lawsuit handled in Texas against Ruffin ruling in their favor due to statute of limitation laws and the Plaintiff having a lack of evidence linking illnesses employees to supposed dangerous working conditions around Asbestos material.